In a statement, the union has identified 10 major flaws in the bill:
- The individual mandate forcing all those without coverage to buy private insurance, with insufficient cost controls on skyrocketing premiums and other insurance costs.
- No challenge to insurance company monopolies, especially in the top 94 metropolitan areas where one or two companies dominate, severely limiting choice and competition.
- 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.
- 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 employees.
- Major loopholes in the insurance reforms that promise bans on exclusion for pre-existing conditions, and no cancellations for sickness. The loopholes include:
- 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 coverage.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 doesn’t want.
- Reduced reproductive rights for women.
- 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.
Here is the Raw Story article:
Nurses explain how health bill could make crisis worse
‘Unchecked influence of health industry lobbyists’ means bill could be weakened in the future, union’s reps say
By Daniel Tencer
The newly-formed nurses’ “mega-union” has issued a scathing indictment of the Senate health bill expected to be voted on this week, calling it a “deeply flawed” piece of legislation that could make the US health care system’s problems worse.
National Nurses United, the US’s largest nurses’ union since it was formed earlier this month, issued a statement Monday implying that it doesn’t support the health care reform bill championed by the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“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 health care 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, a registered nurse.
The nurses’ statement implied that it would be better if Congress passed no reform legislation, rather than the current proposed bill. NNU co-president Deborah Burger dismissed arguments that the bill can be improved in the future, and that it marks the start of a comprehensive overhaul of the US health care system.
“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.
And Jean Ross, another NNU co-president, said it’s likelier that the health care bill will be weakened, rather than strengthened, in the coming years, “due to the unchecked influence of the health care industry lobbyists and the lessons of this year in which all the compromises have been made to the right.”
The NNU’s statement lists what it sees as 10 major flaws with the bill, including the bill’s mandate requiring individuals to purchase health insurance, without doing enough to reduce insurance costs; no limitations on health insurance monopolies in certain states and cities; and “reduced reproductive rights for women.”
The NNU also points to little-discussed provisions in the bill it says put the lie to the idea that the bill will stop insurance companies from canceling policies on account of pre-existing conditions.
– 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 coverage.
National Nurses United is a member of the umbrella labor group AFL-CIO. Last week, the AFL-CIO’s president, Richard Trumka, called the Senate health bill “inadequate and too tilted toward the insurance industry.” The NNU’s criticism this week indicates that the labor movement is lining up against the Senate version of the health bill, which — unlike the House version — doesn’t include any sort of public option.
Earlier this month, as the union was being formed, NNU Co-President Burger criticized the health bill — even before the Medicare buy-in was removed.
“What we’ve got now isn’t really health care reform, it’s a reshuffling of the deck chairs on the Titanic as far as our patients are concerned, and we’re going to make sure that we … have universal health care that is truly universal and has eliminated the insurance companies,” she told Reuters.
December 22nd, 2009