Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Nation's Largest RN Organization Says Healthcare Bill Cedes Too Much to Insurance Industry
A few days ago I got into an argument with some "Democrats" on facebook. That
was an experience. Anyway, they were lambasting me for thinking the current
healt reform bill was a sham. They said I wasn't a "wonk" like them, so how
could I know what I was talking about. I mentioned my years working at an inner
city community health center, as a street outreach worker for people with HIV
and drug users, and as director of a free clinic. I don't think that convinced
them. So this is for them. Perhaps, they will accept that the nations largest
union of RNs might have some idea of what they are talking about.
Nation's Largest RN Organization Says Healthcare Bill Cedes Too Much to
By National Nurses United
December 21, 2009
The 150,000 member National Nurses United, the nation's largest union and
professional organization of registered nurses in the U.S., today criticized the
healthcare bill now advancing in the U.S. Senate saying it is deeply flawed and
grants too much power to the giant insurers.
"It is tragic to see the promise from Washington this year for genuine,
comprehensive reform ground down to a seriously flawed bill that could actually
exacerbate the healthcare crisis and financial insecurity for American families,
and that cedes far too much additional power to the tyranny of a callous
insurance industry," said NNU co-president Karen Higgins, RN.
NNU Co-president Deborah Burger, RN challenged arguments of legislation
proponents that the bill should still be passed because of expanded coverage,
new regulations on insurers, and the hope that it will be improved in the
House-Senate conference committee or future years.
"Those wishful statements ignore the reality that much of the expanded coverage
is based on forced purchase of private insurance without effective controls on
industry pricing practices or real competition and gaping loopholes in the
insurance reforms," said Burger.
Further, said NNU Co-president Jean Ross, RN, "the bill seems more likely to be
eroded, not improved, in future years due to the unchecked influence of the
healthcare industry lobbyists and the lessons of this year in which all the
compromises have been made to the right."
"Sadly, we have ended up with legislation that fails to meet the test of true
healthcare reform, guaranteeing high quality, cost effective care for all
Americans, and instead are further locking into place a system that entrenches
the chokehold of the profit-making insurance giants on our health. If this bill
passes, the industry will become more powerful and could be beyond the reach of
reform for generations," Higgins said.
NNU cited ten significant problems in the legislation, noting many of the same
flaws also exist in the House version and are likely to remain in the bill that
emerges from the House-Senate reconciliation process:
1. The individual mandate forcing all those without coverage to buy private
insurance, with insufficient cost controls on skyrocketing premiums and other
2. No challenge to insurance company monopolies, especially in the top 94
metropolitan areas where one or two companies dominate, severely limiting choice
3. An affordability mirage. Congressional Budget Office estimates say a
family of four with a household income of $54,000 would be expected to pay 17
percent of their income, $9,000, on healthcare exposing too many families to
grave financial risk.
4. The excise tax on comprehensive insurance plans which will encourage
employers to reduce benefits, shift more costs to employees, promote
proliferation of high-deductible plans, and lead to more self-rationing of care
and medical bankruptcies, especially as more plans are subject to the tax every
year due to the lack of adequate price controls. A Towers-Perrin survey in
September found 30 percent of employers said they would reduce employment if
their health costs go up, 86 percent said they'd pass the higher costs to their
5. Major loopholes in the insurance reforms that promise bans on exclusion
for pre-existing conditions, and no cancellations for sickness. The loopholes
* Provisions permitting insurers and companies to more than double
charges to employees who fail "wellness" programs because they have diabetes,
high blood pressure, high cholesterol readings, or other medical conditions.
* Insurers are permitted to sell policies "across state lines",
exempting patient protections passed in other states. Insurers will thus set up
in the least regulated states in a race to the bottom threatening public
protections won by consumers in various states.
* Insurers can charge four times more based on age plus more for
certain conditions, and continue to use marketing techniques to cherry-pick
healthier, less costly enrollees.
* Insurers may continue to rescind policies for "fraud or intentional
misrepresentation" – the main pretext insurance companies now use to cancel
6. Minimal oversight on insurance denials of care; a report by the California
Nurses Association/NNOC in September found that six of California's largest
insurers have rejected more than one-fifth of all claims since 2002.
7. Inadequate limits on drug prices, especially after Senate rejection of an
amendment, to protect a White House deal with pharmaceutical giants, allowing
pharmacies and wholesalers to import lower-cost drugs.
8. New burdens for our public safety net. With a shortage of primary care
physicians and a continuing fiscal crisis at the state and local level, public
hospitals and clinics will be a dumping ground for those the private system
9. Reduced reproductive rights for women.
10. No single standard of care. Our multi-tiered system remains with access to
care still determined by ability to pay. Nothing changes in basic structure of
the system; healthcare remains a privilege, not a right.
"Desperation to pass a bill, regardless of its flaws, has made the White House
and Congress subject to the worst political extortion and new, crippling
concessions every day," Burger said.
"NNU and nurses will continue to work with the thousands of grassroots activists
across the nation to campaign for the best reform, which would be to expand
Medicare to cover everyone, the same type of system working more effectively in
every other industrial country. The day of that reform will come," said Ross.