Monday, May 11, 2009

If Only They’d Thought Of This Sooner

Apparently various healthcare industry groups have had a major V-8 moment and suddenly realized they can cut costs, after all. They’ve even written a letter to President Obama telling him not to hurt them, they promise to be good:
The letter lacks much detail but suggests savings could come from simplified billing, restructuring the way hospitals are paid and using more information technology, among other steps.

Wow. They just thought all that up, all by their li’l ol’ selves?

Bless their hearts.

And all these years we’ve been told that this just wasn’t possible, that healthcare costs were so high because of trial lawyers and illegal immigrants and other nonsense. Imagine that.

But I digress:

Although the agreement does not outline any industry commitments to accept specific reductions in revenue, it does signal continued engagement by powerful healthcare interests in the Obama administration's effort to overhaul the nation's troubled healthcare system.

So in other words, they still want to keep making money hand over fist while some Americans must choose between food and healthcare.

Signatories include the American Medical Assn.; the American Hospital Assn.; the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America; the Advanced Medical Technology Assn., which represents device makers; America's Health Insurance Plans, which represents insurers; and the Service Employees International Union, which shepherded the agreement.

Many members of those groups, whose leaders have been working for weeks behind closed doors on the letter, could lose some money if healthcare spending were substantially slowed.

Spending on healthcare reached $2.2 trillion in 2007 and is expected to increase by more than 6% a year, on average, over the next decade, faster than the economy's growth in general, according to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Excuse me if I’m underwhelmed. I know the president is going to go on TV and tell us how awesome this all is, but frankly I don’t get it. I guess we’re supposed to take whatever crumbs they throw at us and be grateful. These industry groups want to continue to profit off of sick people, and they're putting on a good show of playing along when the reality of the situation is, they're looking to lose money because people can't afford their insanely overpriced product.

To that I say, fuck you.

For their part, conservatives are peddling fear and talking points like this gem, Stop Obamacare, seen over at the Weekly Standard (and do note the Novartis logo strategically placed adjacent to the comments bar):

Conservatives can make it clear they support reform. But they must make it even clearer that the Democrats' plan would displace tens of millions of happily insured Americans and exacerbate the worst elements of the current system: gross inefficiency, high costs, and bureaucracy. President Obama and his congressional allies are pursuing a mammoth, complex, hugely expensive, ill-designed reform that is not likely to be popular when understood. Conservatives have a very real chance at stopping it if they highlight its key weaknesses and supply a superior alternative.

The patronizing message here seems to be: “don’t try to understand this complicated issue, just trust us when we tell you that whatever the Democrats do will suck.”

I really fail to understand how anything could get any worse than it is now, or how offering a public option could be a bad thing. Frankly, while we’re on the subject, I’ve never, ever understood the point of insurance companies, either. I get the idea of trying to pool risk and all, but they lost me when they started “repricing” stuff so that some folks pay one amount and other folks pay a different amount for the same thing.

I don’t get how we are supposed to save money on healthcare by going through a company that is in business to make a profit. Why do they even exist? They are parasites. I’m not an anti-capitalist, not by any stretch, but we’re dealing with people’s lives here. If you’re sick, or your child is sick, you just want treatment. You don’t want to shop for the best deal, shopping around might not even be an option. You want the best care available, period. There’s a moral component at work here, and it’s immoral to make money off of people’s suffering.

So, I’m sorry, I know I’m supposed to be applauding and CLAPPING LOUDER when the healthcare stakeholders promise to not skim quite so much off the top cut costs by getting more efficient--something, amazingly, they haven’t thought to do until now.

I’m just detecting the aroma of bullshit wafting my way.