Obama holds health care summit | HHS does too

Obama holds meeting with Congress about health care

Obama holds health care summit

(Image from Wikimedia.org)

President Obama has initiated a health care summit with Democrats and Republicans from Congress at the Blair House in order to create a bipartisan consensus on what is supposed to be done about health care reform.  Some Republicans have been receptive, others combative.  Thus far, two issues seem to have emerged – that the health care system as it stands is unfair to consumers, and that the U.S. Government cannot afford to begin picking up the tab.  The most common cause of bankruptcy is medical bills, and it is also one of the things that routinely sends people running for payday loans.

Obama, McCain spar

Some of the quotes from the proceedings, from MSNBC, indicate verbal sparring between Sen. John McCain (R, AZ) and President Obama.

“Let me just make this point, John, because we’re not campaigning anymore. The election is over.” — Obama
“I’m reminded of that every day.” – McCain

Republicans strongly contend that market solutions are the better course, which seems to be consensus in other circles.  A recent article in the Wall Street Journal upholds that contention, and two of the authors of the piece are professors of Business and Stanford and Columbia. As it stands now, the government is spending out of control, with Social Security Medicare/Medicaid dangerously close to insolvency, to say nothing of foreign policy.  (One seems to recall not one, but two wars going simultaneously.)  The House and Senate are also currently holding hearings on whether or not to lift the exemption clause that exists for health insurance companies.

Meanwhile, the HHS grills insurance execs

On Wednesday, The Department of Health and Human Services brought a selection of health insurance CEOs to a meeting, as per this article from ABC News.  HHS head Karen Sebelius invited the heads of five major insurers to ask them about the nature of higher costs.  The CEOs were raked over the coals for executive bonuses, such as expensive retreats and lavish bonuses – such as WellPoint, Inc. spending over $37 million in 2007 and 2008 on executive retreats. Rates increased almost 40% for some subscribers.

The rate increase was attributed to already rising cost and irrespective of executive compensation.  The increase in costs were also attributed to many younger insurance purchasers dropping coverage, and the remaining customers being elderly (the elderly are more prone to illness than the young) and because of the increased costs of caring for more elderly subscribers, a health insurance carrier would be forced to raise rates to stay solvent.  Anthem Blue Cross, a subsidiary of WellPoint Inc. claimed to have lost over $10 million in California in the last year alone.  That said, if a company can afford to spend over $30 million on executive retreats, they don’t need a cash advance from customers.

What to pick to help the sick

It would appear that the Washington strategy is to throw money at the problem, instead of dealing with the causes of the rising costs.  Thus far, few if any, news outlets have covered the cause of increased costs of health care. It could be attributable to increased insurance and tort claims, or perhaps medical records and insurance filings, but it would appear that the underlying disease should be diagnosed before treating the symptoms.