Friday, March 25, 2005

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Blogger jonathan said...

HOW ABOUT HEALTH CARE INSURANCE? ...
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State's top 3 health insurers see '06 profits

March 2, 2007

The state's three major health insurers yesterday reported 2006 profits for the fourth quarter and full year. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and Tufts Health Plan all benefited from strong investment income.

Blue Cross Blue Shield said it earned $31.4 million for the fourth quarter and $227.5 million for the year. The full-year results include $107.7 million in investment income and a one-time income tax benefit of $51.2 million. The plan added 163,000 members, for a total of 3 million. In 2005, the insurer had profit of $20 million for the fourth quarter and $264.8 million for the full year.

Harvard Pilgrim said it earned nearly $20 million for the fourth quarter and $70.5 million for the year. That compares with a fourth-quarter profit of $23.1 million and a full-year profit of $74.1 million in 2005. It added about 93,000 members, bringing membership to nearly 1 million.

Tufts Health Plan's results included net income of $18 million for the fourth quarter and $78 million for the year, which included investment income of $45 million. In 2005, it had fourth-quarter net of $48.1 million and a full-year profit of $78.6 million. Membership increased from 606,000 in December 2005 to 625,000 in January 2007.
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Monday, March 05, 2007 8:16:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Don't compromise on health care

Letters

Friday, June 08, 2007

To the Editor of The EAGLE:

In his op-ed column, "The Obama Health Plan," on June 2, Dr. Atul Gawande supports a "centrist" compromise to health care reform, similar to the plans proposed by Barack Obama and John Edwards, and to the plan we now have in Massachusetts.

The problem with these compromise plans is that they support the egregious profits of insurance companies and drive up the costs of health care. E.g., profits for the United Health Group were $3.3 billion in 2005, and the insurance company retained for its own use 21.4 percent of health care premiums paid.

Meanwhile the poor, the elderly and the chronically ill are left to be supported by taxpayer-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid. (Medicare has administrative expenses of 3.6 percent).

Rather than letting insurance companies cherry-pick healthy workers, health risk should be shared in one universal pool, funded and administered by the government.

Every American should have equal access to health care. Only a single-payer plan can provide universal, accessible and cost-effective health care.

SUSANNE L. KING M.D.

Lenox, June 5, 2007

Monday, June 11, 2007 4:50:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

August 30, 2007

Dear Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, et al:

In today's Boston Globe's Op-Ed piece, "The dark side of healthcare reform" (By Benjamin Day, August 30, 2007): Mr. Day poses a thematic question about your (Governor Deval Patrick's) motives in governance, which goes:

"Why would [Governor Deval] Patrick, under the guise of a law designed to expand access to healthcare for everyone, cripple the state's only program (Free Care Pool) that guarantees that low-income, uninsured residents have a place to land when all else fails?"

To answer the thematic question of why Deval Patrick--a 2006 candidate for the people--is doing "disservice after disservice" to the People of Massachusetts as the new Governor in 2007, I will tell it like it is.

The real government in the United States of America, similar to many wealthy European nations, is not a group of elected Officials serving in Congress or Parliaments, but a very small group of wealthy businessmen known to the "have nots" as THE CORPORATE ELITE. The People(s) are manipulated by the wealthy elite class (1% to 10% of the population) into believing that we are a nation of laws, not of men, when the reality is the total opposite of this maxim. The People are distracted into believing that we have a democracy when we in fact live in a fascist World full of violence, divisions, poverty, inequities, and the like. All "The White House" and "Capitol Hill" and "The Supreme Court" really do is distract us with bureaucratic rules in order to distract the People through fear and economics to not question the AGENDA of Wall Street's power-brokers. As Rinaldo Del Gallo III points out in his many brilliant essays on Fathers' Rights, the federal government bribes the state governments with Billions upon Billions of U.S. Dollars (borrowed from foreign nations) to administer unfair and immoral laws, policies and programs, such as Child Custody and Support laws that alienate the Fathers and have deleterious impacts on society, in order to keep the poor down, and the rich profitable.

The answer to the paradoxical question about Deval Patrick's motives in state governance centers on one crystal clear, demonstrable, evidential fact:

DEVAL PATRICK SERVES THE CORPORATE ELITE! More clearly, Deval Patrick serves only his Corporate Elite masters in and around the Boston area.

Whether it is on the State Lottery v. Casino Gambling, the only issue before "the Deval-uator" is whether or not the Corporate Elite will benefit more under the current system or a new system of regressive taxation (gambling).

You see, Deval Patrick knows that the sole purpose of the state Lottery is to raise regressive revenues by taxing the poor with scratch tickets, numbers games, Keno, and the like, rather than taxing the Corporate Elite Wealthy Businesses concentrated in and around Boston.

IF Deval Patrick allows Casino Gambling and it cuts into "the Lottery subsidy" for wealthy businesses, then and only then would the Governor reject the proposal.

HOWEVER, if Deval Patrick is convinced by the Corporate Elite that "the Lottery subsidy" will complement "the Casino subsidy" for wealthy businesses, then the Governor would endorse the proposal.

In short, the only demographic or constituency that Deval Patrick cares about is THE CORPORATE ELITE! The only demographic constituent that Deval Patrick serves is his Corporate Elite masters in and around Boston.

On the issue of mandatory healthcare insurance, similar rules apply for the Governor's motives in governance.

By placing fees (that act like penalties) on the "have nots" who use the Free Care Pool (FCP) instead of one of the federally-funded, state-administered, flawed, mandatory healthcare insurance plans, Deval Patrick is guaranteeing the Corporate Elite's Boston area Insurance Companies take in more revenues than if the people were allowed to outrightly reject the state's flawed healthcare insurance mandate.

Just like the Lottery, the issue of putting sanctions of the FCP is not about the poor people who are getting screwed by the state's flawed inequities, but rather, it is about ensuring more regressive revenues go to the already wealthy businesses that are ran by the Corporate Elite.

In a pasted news article, below, from 3/2/2007, the top 3 Massachusetts Insurance Companies ALL reported profits in 2006! This was done by design for the benefit of the Corporate Elite, NOT the people or "have nots." Blue Cross raked in $227.5 million for the year, Harvard Pilgrim put $70.5 million for the year in their corporate coffers, and Tufts Health Plan's loot totalled $78 million for the year. Let us add up these 3 figures: $227.5-million + $70.5-million + $78-million = $375,500,000.50.

Now, what just happened when Deval Patrick signed the Legislature's FY2008 Massachusetts State Budget?

The following is the answer:

The newly mandated healthcare insurance program was robbed of its $500 million in FEDERAL DOLLARS (from the Health Care Security Trust account to the General Fund account), compounded with the fiscally irresponsible decision of not making both any interest payments and a $100 million contribution to this fund.

What does this add up to (without taking into account the quantitative value of the state not making any interest payments into the Health Care Security Trust account)?: Let us add up these two figures: $500,000,000.00 + $100,000,000.00 = +$600,000,000.00.

Now, let us synthesize the two 2006 fiscal figures on revenues collected by the commonwealth's top 3 healthcare insurance companies PLUS the revenues used for purposes other than providing healthcare insurance for the uninsured: $375,500,000.50 + +$600,000,000.00 = +$975,500,000.50!

That is right, ladies and gentlemen: NEARLY ONE BILLION DOLLARS IN HEALTHCARE REVENUES IN MASSACHUSETTS THAT DID NOT GO TO THE UNINSURED!

JUST WHO IS THE CURRENT GOVERNOR OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS? WILLARD MITT ROMNEY (personally worth no more than $250,000,000.00)? WILLIAM FLOYD WELD (born with a trust fund worth $80,000,000.00)? Hmmm. It must be a wealthy, elitist Republican from Harvard.

What? No? Am I being deceived? It is a Governor who grew up poor and made it TO Harvard University. Hmmm.

It is a Governor who had just last year campaigned as a Populist and man of the People.

YOU MEAN TO TELL ME THAT THE NEW GOVERNOR OF MASSACHUSETTS tricked the People! You mean to explain to me that nearly $1 Billion nominal private and public healthcare insurance dollars in Massachusetts went only to THE CORPORATE ELITE, NOT the "have nots", uninsured, working poor, and the like!

That is right, ladies and gentlemen! Deval Patrick's public record as Governor of Massachusetts is demonstrably in favor of the Corporate Elite, not the People! That my friends is the true, evidential, real mode of governance by the new Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: "Of the corrupted Pols, By the Special Interests, For the Corporate Elite!"

The answer to the thematic questions about Deval Patrick's motives on governance is that he, just like 99/100 (99%) of all other Pols, serve only their Corporate Elite masters!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the crux of the problem in American (& wealthy European) Politics today! All mainstream political parties are only different sides of the same coin that jingles among the vastly wealthy pockets in the Corporate Elite's coffers.

The only way to change "the system" is to vote 99/100 (99%) of the Pols out of political office at every election stop available to the people until the People become REPRESENTED, not manipulated by fear and economics.

Lastly, if Deval Patrick does not want the poor to use the Free Care Pool without fees (that act like penalties), then why is he collecting the federal funds for the FCP program in the first place?

Finally, State governments across our nation are a joke because they receive between 20 - 30+ revenue sources for a myriad of social programs, and all they do is complement these many revenue fund accounts to their tax base in order to offset taxes for the Corporate Elite, meaning wealthy businesses in and around cities such as Boston, Massachusetts. Example: Lottery money is supposed to be for social causes such as public education, but it really used as a means for the Corporate Elite's wealthy businesses to not have to pay as much as they should be paying in state taxes! During the 3 consecutive years (FY2002 - FY2004) of Massachusetts State Budget cuts in state aid to cities and towns, with the average regressive property taxes rising by about 33%, tax breaks for the Corporate Elite's already wealthy businesses, mostly in and around Boston, never missed a beat! That is what I call INEQUITY by design on Beacon Hill's State House! Governor Deval Patrick has proven himself to be no different than his 3 Republican gubernatorial predecessors!

In Dissent,

Jonathan A. Melle

--

BENJAMIN DAY
The dark side of healthcare reform
By Benjamin Day | August 30, 2007

AFTER EXTENDING healthcare coverage to more than 150,000 previously uninsured residents over the past year, Massachusetts health reform took a turn for the worse this month with the Patrick administration's proposal to limit the state's Free Care Pool.

The Free Care Pool exists to catch those who fall through the cracks of both private and public insurance programs, by reimbursing hospitals and health centers that treat the uninsured without any of the cost barriers -- premiums, copayments, deductibles -- that leave low-income patients with medical debt, or worse, untreated illnesses and conditions. The administration's reforms would refuse eligibility for this safety net to everyone who is eligible for the state's subsidized health plan, Commonwealth Care, along with anyone offered "affordable" insurance by their employer. The proposal would also, for the first time ever, impose cost sharing -- deductibles and copayments -- on many of the exclusively low-income patients who rely on the pool for medical care they can receive nowhere else.

In public hearings and consultative sessions hosted by the administration, not a single organization representing Massachusetts patients or residents agreed with this change. What rapidly emerged was a chorus of grassroots protest from legal advocates, patient support groups, labor, communities of faith, policy experts, doctors, hospitals, and health centers. It is easy to understand why Governor Patrick's move to hobble the health safety net lacks a popular base of support: Last year, more than 450,000 people benefited from Free Care Pool coverage.

Why would Patrick, under the guise of a law designed to expand access to healthcare for everyone, cripple the state's only program that guarantees that low-income, uninsured residents have a place to land when all else fails? The answer from administration officials is this: a safety net that is too effective at catching people when they fall through the cracks is incompatible with the the state's new health plans. Almost all of those who have been added to the healthcare rolls under the reform law have come in under fully subsidized, free-coverage plans that don't require premium payments. The partially subsidized plans, on the other hand, as well as those plans residents must purchase at full cost, haven't exactly been flying off the shelves.

This is clear evidence that the standards for what people can afford to pay under the new law are wildly unrealistic. But state officials implementing the law argue that the existence of a working safety net may be discouraging enrollment. Commonwealth Care representatives have commented publicly that the Free Care Pool must be made less attractive.

There is a long and unfortunate history to this line of thinking, which has led to the erosion and, at times, the vilification of our economic safety net institutions. From the Work Relief programs of the Great Depression through Welfare to Workfare, attempts to erode income security have been proposed as a way to corral the unemployed into the workforce. In the United States, the only developed nation without a national universal health plan, the health safety net is targeted as a means of corralling the uninsured into traditional insurance plans.

There is little evidence that eroding safety net programs actually helps improve participation in the labor market or the healthcare market. This does, however, succeed in punishing the poor, throwing low-income communities back on their own resources, and increasing the stigma upon safety net recipients. In the case of the new health law, this is a particularly meaningless and insulting exercise, as the law itself provides stiff financial penalties for any who are deemed able to afford health insurance but fail to enroll in a public or a private plan.

In 2008, the state penalty for being uninsured will be more than $1,000 per year, exceeding the fines for virtually all criminal violations on the books including violation of the child labor laws (a $50 fine) and domestic assault (a maximum $1,000 fine). And a person will still be uninsured after paying it.

The nation today is looking to Massachusetts. Are we as a society willing to use our neighbors' health as an additional stick to punish them for deciding they can't afford the state's "affordable" premiums? I hope not.

Benjamin Day is executive director of Mass-Care: The Massachusetts Campaign for Single Payer Health Care.

--

Thursday, August 30, 2007 8:17:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Health insurance premiums rise 6.1 pct. By EMILY FREDRIX, AP Business Writer

Tuesday, September 11, 2007, 9:31 AM ET

Health insurance premiums paid by workers and their employers rose an average of 6.1 percent this year, outpacing inflation and pay increases and taking a bigger chunk out of families' budgets, according to a new survey.

Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance for the average family topped $12,000 — with employees picking up about one-fourth of that cost — although the increase in premiums slowed for a fourth straight year.

Insurance costs probably will rise again next year, according to the survey released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care research organization that annually tracks the cost of health insurance. Many of the more than 3,000 companies surveyed said they planned to make significant changes to their health plans and benefits, and nearly half said they were very or somewhat likely to raise premiums.

This year, premiums reached an average of $12,106 for a family of four, with workers paying, on average, $3,281 of that. Premiums to cover a single person cost $4,479, with employees paying $694. The portions both families and single people pay in premiums has nearly doubled since 2001.

The companies reported that premiums for families increased 6.1 percent, on average. That's the lowest growth rate since 1999, when premiums rose 5.3 percent and cost an average of $2,196 for individuals and $5,791 for families. Health care premiums rose 7.7 percent last year, when individuals paid an average of $4,242 and families paid $11,480.

This year's slowdown doesn't mean much when it outpaces wages, which rose an average of 3.7 percent, and inflation, which went up 2.6 percent, said Drew Altman, the foundation's president and CEO.

Since 2001, the cost of premiums has gone up 78 percent, far outpacing a 19 percent increase in wages and 17 percent jump in inflation.

"It just shows health insurance is becoming increasingly unaffordable for working people and many businesses in our country," he said.

That rising cost, coupled with the fact that it is outpacing inflation and wage growth, is pushing companies and employees to forgo insurance, Altman said. And that's why the number of uninsured Americans continues to rise, he said. The Census Bureau estimates 15.8 percent of Americans were uninsured last year, up from 15.3 percent the year before.

Health insurance companies continue to see higher profits, but premiums keep going up because costs rise each year, said Gary Claxton, vice president of Menlo Park, Calif.-based Kaiser. And much of that is because, through the years, the health care system produces more tests, procedures and products that can treat more people, and all of that costs more, he said.

Some 158 million people have health insurance through their employers. Sixty percent of companies offer health insurance to their employees, about the same as last year but down from 69 percent in 2000.

The larger a business, the greater the chance it offers health insurance. Though premiums may be similar for smaller and larger companies, smaller ones have higher deductibles, Kaiser says, and their administrative costs for plans may be higher because there are fewer employees over which to spread the costs. Nearly all companies with 50 or more employees offer coverage, with firms with more than 200 employees particularly stable over the years. But only 45 percent of firms with three to nine employees offer health care, down from 57 percent in 2000.

It's frustrating to know that premiums keep rising each year, but dropping or reducing coverage is not an option, said Jack Ross Williams, who owns four vehicle emissions testing sites called Smog 'N Go around Elk Grove, Calif.

He said he'd rather keep copays for doctor visits and drugs stable at $20 than switch to a lower-priced plan and skimp on coverage for the dozen employees who get insurance through his company. But that means the employees who enroll in the company's HMO also feel the pinch because they split premiums equally with the company. For September, premiums for single employees ranged from $232.46 to $312.74.

"I guess we're both biting the bullet," Williams said. "My employees that want to keep it, they have to pay more every year. And I absorb half of that cost as well, so we do it jointly."

Many companies, like Williams', are just going to keep on paying and not cancel plans, the Kaiser survey said. Only 3 percent of respondents said they planned to drop coverage next year. Five percent said they planned to limit eligibility, though the survey did not ask them how they would do that.

But more companies are looking at changing benefits, whether by adding lower-cost insurance options or shifting more costs to employees, according to the Kaiser survey and another that was recently released.

Preliminary results of the Mercer Health & Benefits survey of 1,557 employer plans shows more than half of the respondents planned to shift costs to employees through higher premiums, deductibles, copays or out-of-pocket maximums.

The companies said that if they made no changes to their plans from this year, their costs would go up on average 9 percent next year.

The New York-based human resources consulting firm said given those changes, next year's increase to premiums is expected to be 6.7 percent.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007 5:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Nick said...

How about a round of golf?

Saturday, December 22, 2007 10:23:00 PM  

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