Fear and Loathing Over a Public Insurance Option in Hartford

This coming Monday morning, state lawmakers in Hartford, the nation’s insurance capital, will begin debate on implementing something insurers pulled out all the stops to kill at the national level — the so-called public option that would have created a government insurance program to compete with private carriers.

The setting has more than a bit of irony, since it was Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman whose opposition to the public option effectively assured it would not be part of the health …

Read the Story

Obama’s View: Not A Lot Left to Debate in Health Care Law

By devoting just two minutes to health care reform in his State of the Union address — and not mentioning it until half way through the remarks — President Obama was signaling Americans that he believes the reform debate is over, that Republicans would be wasting precious time by “refighting the battles of the last two years.”

While noting that “anything can be improved” and that he would welcome ideas to improve the bill he signed into law last March, …

Read the Story

Insurers Spin Court Decision on Health Insurance Mandate

When I testified before Congress last year, I told lawmakers that if they passed a health care reform bill with an individual mandate but no public option, they might as well call their bill the “Health Insurance Profit Protection and Enhancement Act.” Well, of course, that is exactly what Congress did, but they didn’t change the name of the new law as I suggested.

I was as upset as anyone that the public option was stripped out, but I …

Read the Story

Thank You, to Many

Thank you.

That’s really the only message I want to convey in this post, appropriately on Thanksgiving. I’ll get back to other matters soon enough, but today I just want to express my gratitude for being so richly blessed and for being able to do what at long last I feel is my right livelihood.

Among the people and things I am especially thankful for is Nataline Sarkisyan. I’m grateful for the role she played in changing the course of …

Read the Story

WellPoint’s Heart-Stopping Rate Increase

A congressional hearing next week into the proposed 39 percent rate increase in California by health insurance giant WellPoint could breathe new life into health care reform efforts on Capitol Hill, especially if lawmakers broaden their investigation into the outrageous rate increases other insurers are also demanding from coast to coast.

WellPoint found itself in Congressional investigators’ crosshairs after the California Department of Insurance challenged the company’s planned increase in the rates it charges its customers who cannot get coverage …

Read the Story

Breaking News: Insurance Industry Launders $10M to $20M in Attack Ads

This is a special alert about breaking news showing that health insurance companies secretly gave the Chamber of Commerce millions of dollars to run third-party attack ads at the same time they were telling Congress they continued to “strongly support reform.” On the one hand, we’re not surprised, but on the other hand, we’re outraged by the lies and deception that have been documented.

The new story in the National Journal proves what I have been talking about, since I …

Read the Story

The Insurance Industry’s Lethal Bottom Line — and a Solution From Sens. Franken and Rockefeller

There was a time, in the early 1990s, when health insurance companies devoted more than 95 cents out of every premium dollar to paying doctors and hospitals for taking care of their members. No more.

Since President Bill Clinton’s health reform plan died 15 years ago, the health insurance industry has come to be dominated by a handful of insurance companies that answer to Wall Street investors, and they have changed that basic math. Today, insurers only pay about 81 …

Read the Story

Lessons from the Health Care Meltdown

Here’s an article I recently published in a special issue of The Regulator (the full issue focused on the health care debate is attached below):

The current economic crisis teaches insurance regulators several key lessons to prevent a wholesale health care meltdown in America. Much like the financial sector, the health insurance sector has made short-term gains its priority rather than the health and well-being of its customers.

As a result, private insurance fails to meet the needs of Americans …

Read the Story

When Big Insurance Rejoices, Something’s Wrong

If you had any doubt about who some Senators on the Senate Finance Committee really, truly care about, consider their recent votes. Just look at the votes against creating a public option to compete against private insurers. Then, consider the giddy response of the industry, according to an article in the trade press:

“We are pleased by the rejection of both the Rockefeller and the Schumer amendments containing public plan options,” says Tom Currey, president of the National Association of

Read the Story

Wendell Potter: Baucus’ Health Care Bill Needs Urgent Care

There are so many problems with the health care reform bill proposed by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, it is little wonder that members of his committee have proposed more than 500 amendments to fix it. Unfortunately, some of the worst amendments that would make the bill even more of a gift to the health insurance industry are being offered by Republicans. If there is a God in heaven, they will not be adopted. But …

Read the Story