Whistleblower: Baucus health bill an ‘absolute gift’ to insurers

How much proof do people need before they wake up and realize that nothing about the so-called “health care reform” legislation being bandied about is meant to solve the problems that exist in the health care system (most of which are caused by the government). It’s all about big business and favors.

From Raw Story:

Pharma group that made deal with Obama now backing Baucus health bill

The health care reform plan proposed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus is an “absolute gift” to health care insurance companies, says an industry whistleblower.

Wendell Potter, a former executive at Cigna, said the Baucus plan “would not provide affordable coverage … gives the industry too much latitude to charge higher premiums based on age and geographic location, fails to mandate employer coverage, and pushes consumers into plans with limited benefits,” Politico reports.

Potter’s claims come at a time when it looks increasingly likely that the White House will back health care reforms that will be very similar to Baucus’ proposal.

On Friday, the New York Times reported that the pharmaceutical trade group that struck a deal with President Barack Obama to support health care reform is backing Baucus’ bill — an indication that Baucus’ plan may be the one that the president will eventually support.

As RAW STORY reported last week, the version of health care reform supported by Sen. Baucus (D-MT) would cost $850 billion to $900 billion over 10 years, but would not include a public health option.

It would, however, levy a new tax on insurance policies, in the hope that “employers would buy cheaper, less generous coverage for employees, thereby reducing the overuse of medical services,” as the New York Times put it.

“Conservatives are already claiming that Democratic reform would lead to health care rationing,” reported The Hill. “A tax like that is unlikely to assuage those concerns.”

In his speech to Congress last week, President Obama hinted that the Baucus bill may be his preferred choice when he touted the notion of a health insurance exchange — a key plank of the Baucus bill.

The details of the Baucus bill are expected to be released on Wednesday.

“The Baucus framework is just an absolute joke,” Politico quoted Wendell Potter as saying. “It is an absolute gift to the industry. And if that is what we see in the legislation, [America’s Health Insurance Plans chief] Karen Ignagni will surely get a huge bonus.”

It was Sen. Baucus who, back in June, announced the deal between the White House and PhRMA, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a trade group representing the US’s largest drug makers. Under that deal, pharmaceutical manufacturers agreed to reduce drug costs to Americans by $80 billion over 10 years, or an average of $8 billion per year, and committed themselves to a $150-million ad campaign supporting the president’s efforts to reform health care.

Those ads began running last month.

But, as Matt Taibbi points out on his blog, the deal also ensured that any health reform bill supported by the White House would not authorize Medicare to negotiate mass discounts for pharmaceuticals. Most single-payer health systems (of which Medicare is an example) have the ability to negotiate bulk price reductions. This helps to explain, for instance, why drug costs are significantly lower in Canada than the United States. Under the pharma deal, no such mechanism would exist in the US.

Now, the New York Times is reporting that at least part of the $150 million big pharma committed to pro-health reform ads will go to supporting the Baucus bill directly.

“President Obama has cited the deal with the group as signifying a new era of cooperation,” the Times reports. “But some critics say the advertising fund could be wielded against alternative approaches to health care legislation.”

Some critics of the White House-big pharma deal say it was politics, rather than policy, that prompted the White House to support the Baucus plan.

The Times quotes James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International, who said of the Baucus plan: “Essentially what the US got was not $80 billion, but $150 million in Obama campaign contributions.”

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