Wendell Potter and Covid-19 Making The Case Why We Need Universal Healthcare For All

I’m a long time advocate for universal healthcare for all of our citizens. Healthcare should not be treated as a commodity available only to those of us privileged enough to afford it, but rather access to it should be insured as a right of citizenship. Guaranteeing coverage should be considered an essential need, and not just for us as individuals but for the well-being of all of society, a point the Covid-19 crisis is driving home with a vengeance.

It remains truly astounding to me how anyone can watch thousands of people suddenly lose their jobs in the middle of a pandemic and still believe that health insurance should be tied to employment. With 55% of all health insurance employment-based, it’s easy to see how this can amplify financial distress during a downturn.

And that is exactly what is happening now with the pandemic. People are losing their health care at the exact moment they need it most.

COBRA and the ability to shop on the marketplace doesn’t help much if you don’t have the ability to pay. And what about all the service industry jobs that have been lost that don’t normally offer health insurance to begin with? This recent article on First, The Coronavirus Pandemic Took Their Jobs. Then, It Wiped Out Their Health Insurance. is an important, compelling read, one that explores the situations of numerous families in WV. Then, multiply these stories by millions of people and you will see the impact our broken health care system will have on countless Americans in the months/years to come.

Allowing people to die because our government won’t stand up to the financial interests who benefit from this inhumane system is immoral. Changing our system to bring us up to the same standards as other comparable countries is not a radical idea.

I’m sharing here the insights of Wendell Potter, a former for-profit insurance executive, who has since become one of it’s most knowledgeable and outspoken critics, who shared this mind-blowing report in March. Be prepared to see yet more of your money expropriated by these wealth-sucking corporations next year with the doubling of premiums, all in order for them to keep their profit margins up in the face of this catastrophic loss.

This is why I’m a supporter of HB 292, the Ohio House legislation to provide universal health care coverage to all Ohioans, a bill sponsored by Rep. Michael Skindell and which should be supported by every Representative. We could save the state and ourselves $25 billion a year collectively by embracing a single payer health care system which would cover every single Ohioan, investing in their health throughout their lives, not just when they have full-time employment. The benefits such a system would have in not only the health and well-being of our citizens and our communities, but in supporting our statewide businesses as well is palpable. It would not only free businesses from bearing the direct burden of these healthcare costs, but would incentivize and attract other businesses to invest in our state.

You can read about this legislation here at SPAN Ohio (Single Payer Action Network), a non-partisan group that has been advocating for such a system for Ohioans for a long time now, and one whose work I enthusiastically endorse.

This is yet more reason why we need a new Representative for District 73, one who cares about the health of people, not just one who will be a rubber stamp for the current status quo that is increasingly failing us. A vote for me is a vote for better public health in Ohio.

Standing up for a universal health care system is my litmus test for supporting a political candidate. I encourage you to make it yours as well.

======= REPORT FROM WENDELL POTTER =======

As a former health insurance exec, I don’t think any story better illustrates my old industry’s racket than the one I’m about to tell you: Right now, as we enter the worst public health crisis of our lifetimes, health insurers are still raking in record profits.

With the COVID19 death and illness count growing each day, you might expect health insurance companies to be one of the industries taking a huge hit right now. After all, they must be reeling from all the medical care Americans now need and all the claims being filed. Right?

Get ready to be outraged. The country’s big for-profit health insurers may actually be one of the huge winners from the pandemic. Among the few corporations to see big jumps in their stock price this week are Anthem, UnitedHealthcare, Cigna and Humana (where I used to work).

Investors clearly believe insurers will make a killing, with one Wall Street analyst boosting Cigna to “strong buy.” As medical claims skyrocket how on earth is this possible? A toxic combination of skimping on coverage for COVID19 treatments and raising next year’s premiums.

How do I know this? I used to handle financial information for Cigna & learned that industry CEOs reveal stuff to financial analysts they’d never say to the general public. Few reporters bother to listen in to insurers’ calls with analysts, but one who does is @bobjherman.

Herman reports that in a recent call with analysts, health insurance CEOs said they don’t expect their profits to fall due to COVID-19. They even expect to meet their most ambitious 2021 earnings goals (and they’ve already been seeing record profits in recent years).

How do health insurers continue to see huge profits during this crisis? “If medical claims start to rise uncontrollably,” Bob Herman reports, “they’ll increase everyone’s premiums next year.” Humana CEO Brian Kane put it more opaquely: “We would price for this for 2021.”

They’re already prepping for big rate increases next year. California officials say they expect insurers to hike premiums up to 40% next year for plans in the state’s Obamacare exchange. Those getting coverage through employers should also brace for big premium hikes.

In addition, Anthem’s CEO said his company expects to realize a “net saving” because hospitals are canceling non-emergency and elective procedures due to COVID-19. And we already know insurers are refusing to waive copays and deductibles for COVID-19 treatments.

This is all music to investors’ ears, who are rushing to buy these stocks. When the market closed today, the Dow was up 2.39%.

By comparison:

*Cigna: Up 6.5%
*UnitedHealthcare: Up 6.67%
*Anthem: Up 9.93%
*Humana: Up 14.92%

It’s high times for the insurance racket.

So, while many suffer serious illness or death — and millions lose their jobs and health insurance — the industry sitting pretty in the United States right now is the health insurance industry.

That perfectly sums up all you need to know about healthcare in America in 2020.

Millions of Americans Are About to Lose Their Health Insurance In a Pandemic By Wendell Potter

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