Healthcare, Lobbyists and Unemployment

healthcare imagesWellPoint, the biggest health insurer in America that pays its CEO roughly $10 million, just announced it is cutting back on the health benefits to its own employees. WellPoint also announced that it will eliminate some jobs at the company and increase deductibles and premiums for employee health benefits. The healthcare industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to block the introduction of public medical insurance and stall other reforms supported by Barack Obama. The industry and interest groups have spent $380m (£238m) in recent months influencing healthcare legislation through lobbying, advertising and in direct political contributions to members of Congress. The largest contribution, totalling close to $1.5m, has gone to the chairman of the senate committee drafting the new law - Max Baucus. Still the best congress money can buy...from a company that whose 9 million dollars a year CEO apparently cares more about profits than her own employees.

About unemployment...Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said on ABC's This Week, "My own suspicion is that we're gonna penetrate the 10 percent barrier and stay there for awhile before we start down."  Greenspan, however, doesn't support another stimulus package. National Director Michael J. Wilson with Americans for Democratic Action, disagrees on "the close to 10% unemployment numbers." He said, “The real unemployment rate released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is 17%, over 7 points higher than the officially reported rate." The real rate includes workers who who are discouraged and stopped looking plus part-timers who are looking for full-time work.  We cannot have a recovery in this country without people getting back to work. We need to change our trade policies and reject corporate free trade so we can bring our jobs and industry back home.  Without actually making things other than military hardware, our nation will become more and more inpoverished.


Precious Daniels (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

Would I be out of line if I say every American who is unemployed should march on Washington and demand jobs?

Carmella Greacen (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

A friend of mine told me about the Wellpoint "grim reaper" letter to all employees on Saturday . . . they were informed that Wellpoint (aka Anthem, now based in Indiana) will be cutting 10% of its roster overall.

He didn't mention the cutback in benefits. He's worked for them for 30 years and until now had 100% coverage - no deductibles. He is exempt and working 7 days a week.

Thankfully, I am now on Medicare - my own company, facing a 25% increase in premiums, just reduced our coverage to 50/50 for in-network providers

dljarvis (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

It is interesting that the current unemployment rate of 9.8 percent is the only number quoted in the "mainstream" media. The U6 number of 17% quoted above is never reported on TV (at least that I have seen). The current unemployment situation is usually presented as "the worst since the 1980's". Ironically, if the BLS calculated the U6 as they did in the 80's the rate would be 21%--approaching depression-era levels.

One of my biggest disappointments came when Pres. Obama told a woman at a town hall meeting some time ago that many of the jobs would not be coming back. I must ask why not? There will be no recovery without jobs. The stimulus will not take up the slack, especially since many of the stimulus jobs are temporary in nature. Yet bringing jobs back in the private sector is not even being discussed.

Jobs must come back if the economy is going to recover, and yet what we are seeing is companies using the recession as an excuse for more offshoring and outsourcing. Even companies that are receiving taxpayer bailouts are retaining their foreign workers and offshoring operations while they lay off American workers. And congress is still allowing the import of H1B and L1 workers from cheap-labor countries as the corporations cite "shortages" of skilled workers.

This is disgusting and much more shameful than the Wall Street bonuses and CEO salaries. The irony is "We the People" are financing the movement of our jobs overseas and the destruction of our economy. I find myself thinking like a tea-bagger. "I want my country back." But I want it back from the corporations that control it today, and have run it into the ground.

buffalo1 (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

Greetings to all! If one really wants to discover the real motive behind the creation of this recession and all others since the "Great Depression" look to the illegal Federal Reserve and its monetary polices.

Crystal (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

Precious, I think you're on the right track. I got so fed up Friday that my 14 year old son and I boarded an Amtrak train from Portland to DC to deal with the health care issue. Along the way I have been told by everyone that coming here was useless, there's nothing to do here I can't do at home, and most of the things I hoped to do you can't do here. Apparently soap boxes have gone the way of the dinosaurs.

So I'm reformulating my plan, digging in my heels, and I'm going to find a way to make a difference while I'm here.

I can't think back on the founding of this country and believe there is not still a way to participate directly in the process of Democracy.

Amtrak is a nice way to travel, and affordable. If you feel called, just come here. Obama's OFA site can help you get connected when you're here, and after making some local contacts, you might be able to get some local folks helping you with unemployment as well.

BTW, I can't help but to wonder, if we had everyone covered, and health care was adequately funded, how dramatically the rate of unemployment might drop, what with all the new PAs, and RNPs, and RNs, and MAs, and imaging techs, and respiratory techs, etc we'd need to actually care for sick people instead of allowing them to become sicker.

Bill (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

What the left needs to do to get a message to Obama is not to march on Washington, it does nothing. But instead we need to switch political parties from the Democratic to Independent. If we did this in a 5 day span, it would show a CLEAR message that NONE of them who oppose will hold another seat other than the local dog catcher. The right wing couldn't dispute it or spin it into anything other than what it is if they tried!

Medicare part E "ONLY!"

Mark (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

At the end of Wednesday’s show, Thom hastily mentioned that one possible reason that we may remain in Afghanistan for an indeterminate amount of time is that we want to get our hands on its untapped resources. I wrote here last week that this isn’t a practical excuse for us to remain. For one thing, its major untapped resources are natural gas and coal (not oil), which we already have in abundance, and in the case of natural gas, its export potential would remain largely a regional commodity. There are mineral resources including high-grade iron ore and copper in the mountains of Afghanistan, but the dearth of Afghans with the needed skills, the lack of infrastructure (governmental or otherwise), the difficult terrain and constant conflicts between factions (to say nothing of our efforts to alienate as many people there as we can) has prevented projects that might have properly developed these resources. Outside of natural gas, Afghanistan exports almost no mineral resources at all, save maybe on the black market; what was “mined” has been used to finance inter-tribal warfare over the years.

The question then is are we there to stabilize the country enough to develop mining operations ourselves? The former Soviet Union tried to do it, and were unsuccessful, and they had more technical resources readily available. I rather doubt that the Bush administration coveted the country’s resources because of the additional cost it would entail (not to mention causing an international backlash if resource looting was our true purpose there), or else it would have made a more concerted effort to develop the Afghanistan’s infrastructure. We are, after all, about to pull out of Iraq, having done little of what we promised to do on the ground.

Richard York (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

I have a theory of how Obama might be playing Chess, not Checkers with health care reform.

It suddenly occurred to me today that president Obama might just have made a brilliant move in introducing health care reform from a position of compromise, with the public option, rather than the position we'd all hoped he'd take, Medicare for all. And here's why... moving the debate the furthest possible to the right without alienating the left gave Obama the support of most of big healthcare, the drug companies, most of the insurance companies. From this position, he gains positive input from these companies, rather than what would have happened otherwise. You see Harry and Louise supporting the president's plans instead of opposing them. And while this strategy is implemented, you keep your base hanging by a thread. Co-ops, triggers, maybe no public option at all, who knows. This ignites more activism in the base and public pressure is intensely magnified. Would the base have been as active were it not for the consistent threat of no true reform at all? You get people like Thom, and Ed Shultz, and Keith Olbermann banging their fists demanding the public option. It looks like the right is going to win again.

And this, I suppose, is where quite a bit of hope, faith and optimism in Barack Obama, and the democrats in general comes in. I pray this is his secret intention. Withdrawal your attention, make your base feel like you aren't listening. Intensify feelings in the base many times over. And you get a well-oiled machine, unified, on message and demanding real reform. At the last possible minute, you pull out your real plan, the strong public option open to everyone (though we all wish it would really be Medicare for all, I don't think even Barack Obama has the pills to go that far), and you throw a few bones to the right too with tort reform and the "health insurance marketplace". You unleash the full strength of your grassroots mailing lists. You threaten conservative democrats with withdrawing campaign funding and chairmanships. The plan takes a sudden turn to the left, and big health doesn't have enough time to unleash the full might of its power before the congressional vote. It's like taking a garden hose and holding it closed and then suddenly releasing the pressure.

If this truly is his plan, I stand in awe of the political genius at work here.

j.sea (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

If anyone hasn't see Keith Olbermann's hour-long special comment delivered tonight (10/7) on Health Care -- you really must. It is Shakespearean and completely stunning.

Thom -- you have worked tireless to lay the foundation for a national (and global) Renaissance -- and I truly believe it is beginning. You did get me through the despair.... when all I could hear in the middle of the night was the wailing of widows and the weeping of children. I hear music now in the distance and it is coming closer....

Mark (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

I believe I was listening to your show a while back and you mentioned that Health Care in the USA used to be not for profit. Can you enlighten me on this? Or am I mistaken on what I thought I heard?

Phil Stone (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

Everyone should hear Wednesday's The Story on NPR, with Dick Gordon. He interviewed a couple who had United Healthcare, but had their policy cancelled retroactively after their premature twins were out of the hospital. Nearly a half a million in bills, and to really redefine chutzpah, United Healthcare kept all the money they had paid in premiums. The Mroz family should be wall to wall on TV and Radio. Maybe Tom could get them on.

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