Sunday, March 01, 2009

Health Care "Debate" in Journal Sentinel Two-Headed, One-Sided

With its number of pages shrinking by the day and its readership becoming ever more progressive, why would the Journal Sentinel continue to turn over even more of its limited newsprint real estate to predictable right-wing hacks? And how silly is it to have them tripping over the same message on the same day?

No less than two of the paper’s growing stable of local GOP-friendly columnists kicked the same health care cat this Sunday, playing the same Orwellian language tricks on behalf of the health insurance industry. Either they both got the same memo on the same day from some industry stooge or they are the most unimaginative couple of corporate mouthpieces – outside of wing-nut radio – in local media. I’m guessing it’s both.

Usually, reporters and columnists for the Journal Sentinel are not supposed to be active with any political party. Such rules do not apply, apparently, to John Torinus, the chairman of a graphic arts company in West Bend, a board member of notorious right-wing election-flipper WMC and a regular contributor to Republican campaigns. Torinus appears regularly in the Business section driving the tiresome low-tax/free trade/anti-labor agenda of the stereotypical capitalist class. Apparently, this kind of tripe is expected in the Business section, which – the reasoning goes – is only read by captains of industry who need their egos and outdated notions stroked. That was back when there were some captains and some industry in town, but, the tell-‘em-what-we-think-they-want-to-hear tradition continues as the J-S.

In his column this Sunday, Torinus explores familiar territory for him, promoting the type of high-deductible health insurance imposed on his company’s employees and trying to get state and local government employees off of the naturally more-expensive real health insurance – you know, the kind that actually pays for your doctor visit before eating up $3,000 of your own money first. Although he used the phrase "high-deductible plan" to describe, well, the high-deductible plans as recently at last October, he now uses the deceptive language "consumer-driven health plans". Out of necessity, these cheaper plans are now all over the private sector. Torinus claims that since such plans "work" there (they don't, by the way), it should also be imposed on public employees.

First of all, Torinus presumes the use and funding of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), the Trojan horse scheme cooked up during Junior Bush’s early years to move the country down just this slippery slope. The fact is that, in practice, most people with high-deductible plans don’t have HSAs. If they have to go to the doctor or end up in the hospital, that first $3,000 is out of their own pockets, if they have any.

It’s actually like having no health insurance at all. What really happens is that people who have to pay the first couple thousand or so (no big deal to silver-spooners like Torinus, but still...) let the little stuff go, don’t get regular check-ups – preventative care goes out the window – leading to more serious health problems down the line.

The scheme benefits only one entity – the health insurance companies, which – for relatively healthy people with less than $3,000 care needed for the year – may not ever have to pay any doctor bills for many of their "insured". But this is the "consumer’s choice" according to Torinus – to let the toothache, the bout with depression, the weird lump on the skin go for now. This is the exact opposite of optimum health care in every other industrialized country in the world, but, hey, let ‘em eat cake, says Torinus.

Meanwhile, over at the four-page Crossroads section, the editors again found room for the omnipresent Patrick McIlheran, who decided on the same day to squawk about the same thing with the same "consumer-driven" language. Not surprisingly, Republican Milwaukee’s favorite dog-on-a-leash is happy to throw in with the high-deductible crowd, crowing about the arrangement with public employees in Manitowoc County and boldly expanding the "lesson" to the edges of the known universe. "The question isn't whether HSAs and markets work but whether they can be permitted to work," says the former copy boy who, due to his own union protections at the J-S, I'm guessing, has to deal with no such thing.

The situation in Manitowoc if accurately described by McIlheran (I know -- big "if") appears to be unique, extraordinarily generous and symbolic of nothing. Unlike the vast majority of private employers celebrated by Torinus who might, at best, match an employee's contribution, the HSAs in Manitowoc County are funded entirely by the county. So, besides paying the premiums of the high-deductible plan, the county plunks $3,000 into the HSA of every employee every year. "...the leftover money builds up, and they can keep it when they leave," reports Paddy Mac.

Shit, I'd take that deal, too. But, other than other small counties -- go Calumet, cheers McIlheran -- how the hell would governments as large as MPS, Milwaukee County or the State of Wisconsin do the same thing?

Even if they could, it proves nothing about the larger point Torinus and McIlheran are trying to make about the "dangers" of national health care. The HSA/high-deductible scheme is a lie designed to save the bloated health insurance industry from America's inevitable long-overdue move to a 21st century health care financing system. There is no way the Obama administration is going to be distracted by snake oil salesmen like Torinus and McIlheran. They are much more serious than that.


Jack Lohman said...

What John Torinus does not say, but you've pointed out, is that HSAs transfer much of the health care burden to their employees, and that's why the companies save money. And while they are in the range of the deductible, some hospitals are now asking for cash up front. And once they reach their coverage, beyond their deductible, they have a standard policy that is subject to the same whims of an insurance company.

Torinus is also a board member of WMC, and also likes medical tourism, like sending empoloyees to India for cheap operations. Mumbai anyone?

A RAND study demonstrated that when hypertensive patients had to pay part of the bill, they had a 10% higher death rate. Certainly if people die earlier we will reduce our health care costs, but that sounds too much like a Philip Morris study I once read.

I think we can do better.

Jack Lohman

Jim said...

Health insurance companies know what's coming......why doesn't Paddy Mac?

Publius said...

Two-headed and one-sided? Kind of like your anti-talk radio psychosis?

Jack Lohman said...

Well Publius, when you legislators find out what it's like to be without healthcare maybe you'll understand what it's like to grovel.

patrick said...

What I find interesting is the phrase "capitalist class." See, as I have long suspected, the democratic party is dead and the socialist party with its government control of everything is slowly showing its ugly head.

Jack Lohman said...

I can deal with some socialism. Sweden has the highest standard of living in the world and have only socialized health care, schools and campaign funding.

But patrick, how are you liking today's capitalism so far? Is today's "free market" really what you want for your kids and grandkids?

Jack Lohman

Jim said...

I propose a new drinking game.....everytime a Republican/talk radio host/CPAC attendee utters the word "socialist", DRINK!

Since they can't debate their way out of a paper bag and its all they can come up with, we'll be drunk by lunch!

caieva said...

I see nothing wrong with small copays and health savings accounts. It makes people better consumers, and giving them what's leftover at the end of the year is certainly a motivating factor.
What I find unacceptable is that good employers who provide good health insurance at ridiculous prices are subsidizing the walmarts and restaurants of the state. Either all employers should offer insurance at a fixed price helped by the state or it should just be taken off the plate of businesses for once and for all because we are ALL struggling!

Jack Lohman said...

caieva, your first statement is contradictory. With HSAs your co-pay could be as high as $2000 or whatever your limit is. But I'd say leave HSAs in place for those foolish enough to use them, but also implement a national single-payer plan.

What this nation's economy needs is a single-payer plan that eliminates the 5000 or so health plans and their huge administrative costs that drain 31% of our health care dollars without ever laying hands on the patient.

Without single-payer healthcare this nation's economy will never recover. HR676 Medicare-for-all will not only expand health care to 100% of the people, and save $400 billion annually, but it will bail out 100% of our employers to the tune of $6000 per employee per year. It will stimulate them to keep the employees they have and add new employees for growth. What better way of keeping jobs in the US? We cannot allow the insurance industry to win this issue.

I'd rather see our bailout money going to Wisconsin employers.

Ron said...

Jim, Add rule #2 to your game. Every time a Democrat or liberal uses the words racist, bigot, facist, or homophobe take a drink.

Since they nobetter than the Repubicans etc, we'll all be drunk before breakfast is done!

patrick said...

What concerns me with socializing the health care system is that the goals then become equal results and following rules--not rewarding excellence and innovation. As a unionized teacher working in a government controlled industry, I can tell endless stories of how there is no reward for effort beyond the contract and no real penalty for mediocrity. No bad teacher really needs to worry about being fired, only those who break the rules. I just don't want my doctor to opperate under these standards. I'm also concerned that while the left wants the decision about an abortion to be between a woman and her abortionist doctor, every other decision regarding my health care would be between the government, my doctor, and myself. This creates a system where the priviliged members of the "self-serving government class" would get special treatment. Would some poor old man from the ghetto receive the same treatment as Ted Kennedy? No.

Others make the argument that nationalizing health care will save business money--but forgets that tax-payers would still be paying the bills.

What about Sweden, some say. Fine, in a tiny economy it might have merit. I say: Look at Mexico or China.

And Jack, I'd rather have our current system anyday. Yes, the economy is down, but the free market system rewards excellence with opportunity. I want my children to have choices, chances, possibilities. The more government becomes involved, the less freedom we have. Socialism, like capitalism breeds abuses--fraud, nepotism, tax cheating, favoritism of all sorts, but capitalism values freedom and opportunity whereas scialism values conformity and low dependence. Promise a man a fish--which you will pay for with some rich dude's money--and he'll vote for you every time. That's the soft slavery of dependence, and that's why the left likes it so much; they value conformity over individualism, self-reliance, and freedom.

Anonymous said...

Journal readership more progressive? LMAO, its readership is down because it is to LIBERAL, as in advocating Socialism and for cut and run coward politicans. Mikey accept with pride your liberal socialism, do not hide behind your self loathing cowardness, by trying to reinvent yourself as a "progressive", obviously because you realize that calling yourself a liberal is a bad thing. you can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig. progressive, liberal, all the same, despised and something to be ashamed of.

clyde winter said...

No comments, verbal or written, no editorials, on the closely related subjects of the health care crisis, and the legalized bribery that poisons our democracy, can stand against the carefully researched, factual analysis and clear concise expression of Jack Lohman. Thank you, Jack, for your persistent service to the people and to the future.

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