Junkfood Science: Behind closed doors

February 22, 2009

Behind closed doors

How many Americans knew that since last fall, key stakeholders in the health insurance industry and lobbyists for a wide range of interests in managed care have been secretly meeting with Democratic staff of Senator Edward Kennedy, working to develop the terms for legislating universal health insurance? As the New York Times reports, the talks taking place behind closed doors are unusual. Staff aides said that anyone who revealed the details of the group’s plans outside the secret meetings have been threatened with expulsion.

Reporter Robert Pear writes:

The ideas discussed include a proposal to penalize people who fail to comply with the “individual obligation” to have insurance. “There seems to be a sense of the room that some form of tax penalty is an effective means to enforce such an obligation, though only on those for whom affordable coverage is available,” said the memorandum, prepared by David C. Bowen, a neurobiologist who is director of the health staff at the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Clearly, they aren’t planning to allow Americans the freedom to choose to self-insure or to buy an inexpensive major-medical type of policy. Lobbyists said that with the government subsidizing insurance premiums, it would set minimum Federal standards for benefits and Congress would define the minimum coverage that everyone would be required to purchase.

As we’ve seen, health insurance as mandated by states across the country is no longer actual insurance to cover potentially catastrophic events — it's managed care programs that compel people to get screening and preventive care, treatments and medications the state determines. Over the last 30 years, state and federal governments have also legislated more than 1,800 mandates, according to the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, which have raised the cost of policies for everyone by as much as 50%. Health insurance mandates are laws that require all policies to cover certain procedures, whether a member needs or wants them. “For almost every health care product or service, there is someone who wants insurance to cover it so that those who sell the products and services get more business,” says CAHI. Sadly, growing numbers of mandates are also for frivolous, fraudulent, marginally effective to completely ineffective, unproven to potentially dangerous things.

That’s what happens, it seems, when politicians and stakeholders decide what’s best for our health, rather than us and our own doctors.

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