The Truth About Health Coverage “Choice.” You Have NO Choice Except with Medicare for All

Promulgated by the insurance industry, it has become accepted that Americans want “choice” in healthcare coverage, but as today’s post makes clear, Americans do not want the kinds of “choices” offered by the current system.

Happy Holidays! Roxanne and I wish all of you a reflective, peaceful and joyous holiday season. The Retake blog will be taking a few days off beginning tomorrow. So until next year, be well and rest up for 2020. No doubt, it will be a most challenging year, one that must lead to the transformative change that is really our only path forward.

Meet & Greet Lyla June Johnston, her first campaign event: 4pm, Saturday, December 28 at the studio of Stephen Augur 1805 2nd St. This is a great opportunity to meet the candidate challenging Speaker Egolf. We welcome her candidacy as we feel it will force an ongoing debate on climate crisis issues. Please RSVP by writing to info@electlylajune.com.

Click here to get the full one-hour interview with Lyla June aired Saturday on KSFR.

Another Example of Corporate Dishonesty & Greed: “My Care, My Choice” Is a False Choice Perpetrated By the Insurance Industry

For decades, Wendell Potter served as a health insurance executive and helped develop the industry speaking points around “choice” in healthcare. In his brief article, Wendell Potter Pulls Choice of Care Out of “My Care, My Choice,” Potter exposes exactly what is at play in the health insurance industry’s effort to delude America about Medicare for All and convince you that the industry is trying to safeguard your healthcare and your choices in healthcare. For millions of Americans, My Care, My Choice is the false choice between My Care, My Rent or My Care, My Heat. Read on.

As a health insurance PR guy, we knew one of the huge *vulnerabilities* of the current system was LACK of choice. In the current system, you can’t pick your own doc, specialist, or hospital without huge “out of network” bills. So we set out to muddy the issue of “choice. As industry insiders, we also knew most Americans have very little choice of their plan. Your company chooses an insurance provider and you get to pick from a few different plans offered by that one insurer, usually either a high deductible plan or a higher deductible plan “

Wendell Potter Pulls Choice of Care Out of “My Care, My Choice published in Physicians for National Health Plan

Straight from the mouth of a former healthcare executive in charge of promoting their bogus product. Just as the tobacco industry knew their product killed and they lied about it; just as the auto industry knew that smog was choking Los Angeles and lied about it; just as the gas and oil industry knew for decades that their industry was causing climate change; so too, the healthcare industry knows very well that “one of the huge vulnerabilities of the current system is LACK of choice.” And so they lie about it.

The quote above reminds me of a conversation I had with my friend Bill Ayers a couple years ago. Bill was going through a dizzying stack of publications describing the “choices” he had in his healthcare. Each year, we are beset with promotional materials from a bevy of insurance providers with happy looking people, happy with their health care choices under plan A, B or C. Bill was moaning and groaning to his friend who was visiting from Canada and his friend took out his wallet and showed Bill a slim card and said: “These are my choices, one card. I choose my doctor and together we decide the care I need. And it is free.”

As soon as someone mentions Canadian healthcare, you will hear a litany of false claims: Canadians stream to the US for their care; doctors flee Canada to practice medicine in the US; you can’t get a hip replacement in Canada; there are long delays in obtaining treatment in Canada; and Canada rations health care, creating a barrier to treatment. Click here to read an excellent brief article by Aaron E. Carroll, M.D., the director of the Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research. It was published by the American Association of Retired People (AARP). The AARP is hardly an extreme left wing organization, yet they debunk each of the myths described above about Canadian health care concluding with the following quote:

An 11-country survey carried out in 2010 by the Commonwealth Fund, a Washington-based health policy foundation, found that adults in the United States are by far the most likely to go without care because of cost. In fact, 42 percent of the Americans surveyed did not express confidence that they would be able to afford health care if seriously ill.”

Source: “How Health Insurance Design Affects Access to Care and Costs, by Income, in Eleven Countries,” Health Affairs, November 2010.
Industry advertisement: Putting patients above politics. Really?

The quote above strikes at the heart of the myth of the “choices” offered by our corporate-managed health care system. Our choices are far too often between going heavily in debt or going bankrupt and getting the treatment our bodies require. No one in Canada or any other country with nationalized healthcare EVER faces that kind of choice.

As Potter goes on to point out, if you have employer-based coverage, you have little to no choice in care providers or plans; you have coverage only so long as your employer continues to offer coverage or continues to employ you. Your employer and the provider they select (not you) determine your coverage, your access to care, your cost of care, your co-pays. How is this system about you choosing your care? As Potter points out:

An industry front group launched a campaign to achieve this very purpose. Its name: “My Care, My Choice.” Its job: Trick Americans into thinking they currently can choose any plan they want, and that their plan allows them to see any doctor.

This isn’t the only time the industry made “choice” a big talking point in its scheme to fight health reform. Soon after Obamacare was passed, it created a front group called the Choice and Competition Coalition, to scare states away from creating exchanges with better plan.”

The insurance industry spent tens of millions on campaigns like My Care, My Choice, campaigns explicitly intended to mislead you into thinking you have choice. And as the chart below reveals, they also spend hundreds of millions on lobbying efforts, including recently lobbying states to dissuade them from offering exchanges that would have offered you real choice. Note that the two industries that spend the most on lobbying are pharmaceuticals and insurance.

Opensecrets.org

Potter concludes by saying that there is one big change in the rhetoric of choice. Democrats have now embraced the insurance industry language promoting the illusory “choice” out of a misguided effort to convince Americans that they are better off with the false choices offered by the insurance industry rather than the only plan that offers real choice: MediCare for All. Why? Guess who is one of the DNC’s largest contributors?

With one Democrat after another, including Elizabeth Warren but NOT Bernie Sanders, retreating from their support for Medicare for All, the chart above is telling. Potter closes his piece with the following:

The truth, of course, is you have little “choice” in healthcare now. Most can’t keep their plan as long as they want, or visit any doctor or hospital. Some reforms, like Medicare For All, would let you. In other words, M4A actually offers more choice than the status quo. So if a politician tells you they oppose reforming the current healthcare system because they want to preserve “choice,” either they don’t know what they’re talking about – or they’re willfully ignoring the truth. I assure you, the insurance industry is delighted either way.”

At the end of Potter’s article, a comment was offered by Dr. Don McCanne

Though the private insurance industry claims they are protecting choice in health care, they are not. They are protecting their market of private health plans in which you can choose what health care you are willing to give up by being restricted to networks that limit your choices of physicians and hospitals, limit your affordability of care through high deductibles and other cost sharing, or limit your choice to a plan offered by your employer.

The irony is that the one-size-fits-all plan – single payer Medicare for All – is the plan that does give you your choices of physicians, hospitals and other health care services and products. It is the plan that works for all whereas the My-Care-My-Choice private plans take away many of your choices in health care. ”

Don McCanne, M.D. In comment at the bottom of Potter’s article.

Click to read the full post from Wendell Potter.

Fortunately in NM we are working toward real healthcare reform: the Health Security Act. In 2021, we will be able to vote that system into law and begin the march to real choice in healthcare, despite industry manipulations and Democratic Party betrayals. But it will be a very rough battle here in NM. None other than our Speaker Brian Egolf, when interviewed last spring on Retake Our Democracy radio and asked about the Health Security Act, responded with industry speaking points, claiming that the HSA would cost over $15 billion or over three times the total state budget. This is an overstatement of the costs and doesn’t incorporate cost savings to accrue from the HSA. It is discouraging to hear the Speaker, whose district is the most liberal in the state, spouting insurance industry mantra. If you want to hear the Speaker do so, click here and go to 25M into the show. So it will be no easy lift here in NM.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne



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14 replies

  1. I am an 83 year old vet. I have VA medical benefits and without that benefit i would be a street person. Whike i hear a lot of yak about this and that about the problems with health care for all, i don’t here many talking about the VA. If the government can run a system treating a growing number of vets due to a war economy; where is the problem with proving the same service for all from birth to transition.
    All governments are full of talk with very slow delivery of service to the people but quick to support war and deny refugees and immigrants access to this country.
    I would like to know what democracy there is to be retaken.
    sea tub w. tony quilico

  2. No choice? At all?

    • No Choice at all, except for folks who want cosmetic stuff not covered. M4A. But your question makes it obvious that the next step is lay out the economics that drive the need for no choice. The math doesn’t work if folks opt out and want insurance providers. That industry would largely disappear.

  3. This is all more of the same. From nation to nation, for centuries, regardless of the governance, affluence of the population, sanctity of the religious orders, the common folk are the cannon fodder for the elites and their mercenaries, their sycophants and their apologists. Follow the masses’ money, follow their time in labor, in volunteerism, in charity, in patience and turning the other cheek, and at the other end you will find the takers, the leadership, the hierarchy, the controllers, the arbiters, the criminals who are never looked at or called to task. The data do not lie. In three years, I have lost more than 15k dollars as a result of insurance bungling, documented and admitted to by them. But it makes no difference. It would cost me what little I have and I could never even get into a court. These are the private insurance carriers leached onto Medicare, taking their premiums from Social Security, forcing doctors and hospitals to take what they give them, and write off the rest. I have received some big care that has kept me alive, but my deductibles are huge compared to true Medicare, and I still have paid much out of pocket after the coverage is applied.

    As with everything else in the sector of private business and commerce, we always have to take what they give us, economic extortion bleated out as the cost of doing business. My son-in-law is French, and my daughter, who is slightly less than a French citizen, gets full coverage when in France, no questions asked. When they travel anywhere in the EU, or in a former French colony, their health costs are a pittance.

    There is no democracy to retake, as the man says. There never was. The white supremacists, rich or poor, educated or hicks, could not and cannot function without a kingdom and the reverence to its monarchs, be they two-bit billionaires, overly decorated generals and admirals, religious shakes, mob-connected lawyers, the cops, the judges, the energy moguls, star entertainers and athletes, and the list goes on. Corporate debt is near 10 trillion, yet they borrow cheap money to buy back their stock, get fresh money from greedy investors, raise prices, send their money out of country, and cover for each other in fiasco after fiasco. Boeing and Monsanto are tiny tips of icebergs the size of the British Isles.

    The defense budget is obscene, and war after war has defeated the peace while razing multiple countries back to the Stone Age. Now our phony progressive politicos foist on us the most egregious quid pro quo in history with the attempt at PNM extortion. One of the most pathetically mismanaged companies in history is on the verge of a financial coupe of Czarian proportions. And they are small fish. Imagine what has gone on for decades with the really big boys.

    The mainstream media, who are the ultimate kingmakers, are desperately trying to push the revolutionaries in the Democrat party off any cliff available. They must control the narrative in order to keep the cabal going. It teeters by a razor’s edge. There is no there there. The only weapon left is extortion and mercenary force, compliments of public and private policing. The only entity that is not completely broke are the hundreds of millions of us at the bottom, our constant purchases, the taxes we pay, the extra work we shoulder for little or no pay.

    Looks like a dictatorship to me. Mick Nickel

    • It sure does look like a Dictatorship. Some people just have not caught on yet. Planes actually fell out of the sky after Boeing was allowed to do it’s own safety inspections, and no one gave it much of a thought. We now have one retailer selling everything from drone targeting to cheap plastic crap from China!

      We need a grotesque statue of Mammon installed on the Santa Fe Plaza!

  4. The “my way or the highway” tunnel vision of the left is killing us. It’s like the Bernie or bust people who voted for Jill Stein and brought us Trump.

    • I agree about those who voted for Stein, but the Medicare for All is a different matter. M4A is the basic health care system in virtually every developed nation in the world. And the reason for not offering a “choice” option is that it undermines to fiscal apparatus that makes M4A work. But that wasn’t covered in the last post. After the holidays, I will do another post outlining why M4A makes the most sense and why it can’t work with a choice option. Why would you not want to eliminate all the profit and greed from the pharma and insurance industries and allow everyone to have access to healthcare? Happy Holiday Linda. Hi to Andy.

  5. I agree. But. It’s not about what we know is the best thing. It’s about what the American sheeple will actually vote for.

  6. This was a good start on the arguments for M4A, and I appreciate the references to other countries. Having spent the first half of my life in Canada, I can provide some comments on some of the industry talking points:

    1) “Any system run by the government will be horribly bureaucratic” – this is a real laugh: I didn’t know what bureaucracy was like until I came to the US and had to deal with health care insurance. In Canada you show your provincial health care card (it’s actually a decentralized system, with each province running their own single-payer system, according to federal guidelines) and you’re done – no insurance forms to fill out at all. Doctors also like this, because they have to spend very little time on getting paid for their services.

    2) “Yes, but the taxes are sky-high”. Well, not really. They’re a little higher, because good health care does cost money, and it’s paid for out of tax revenue, so everyone pays in fairly, according to their income, just like we do for roads and any number of other government services. Back in the early ’90’s, when there was a previous big push to get single payer in NM, I went to a forum on health care and some health insurance shill was talking about how the tax rate in Alberta (one of the Canadian provinces) was 45%. Well back then I happened to still be paying taxes in Alberta, so I knew that this was very deceptive and I said so: the provincial income tax in Alberta is indeed 45%, but it’s 45% of your federal taxes, not 45% of your income.

    3) “You have to wait forever for surgery”. On average the wait times in Canada are a little longer than those in the U.S. for those who have insurance. But if you don’t have insurance in the U.S., the wait time can be very long, since “paying customers come first”. A friend of ours here in Santa Fe, who works in the service industry, has never had health insurance. When she was involved in an auto accident and badly broke several bones in her leg, she had to wait over a week for any surgery – she just wasn’t a priority. As a result, she’ll never walk normally again.

    Finally, I have to tell this story, because I believe it sums up why Canadians would never give up their single-payer system (even conservative friends of mine in Canada are totally supportive, and can’t understand why Americans don’t have something similar).

    When she was in her early 80’s, my mother fell and broke her hip. As you know, this is pretty serious for elderly people. Well, she was admitted to hospital right away and was in hospital for about 4 weeks, followed by another 6 weeks in a rehab facility attached to the hospital. We all know what that kind of hospital stay costs in the U.S., and how it can easily bankrupt most people. Afterwards, when my mother was walking again and doing really pretty well, my parents were surprised, and really quite angry, to get a bill from the hospital. It was for $10, for my father’s parking pass so he could visit for those many weeks. That was it, for those 10 weeks in hospital.

  7. I would disagree with one of the statements you make: “M4A is the basic health care system in virtually every developed nation in the world.”

    In fact the system envisioned by Medicare for All – e.g. single payer with privately owned delivery systems (doctors offices, clinics, hospitals, etc.) eliminating all private insurance is fairly rare, being used only by Canada, Taiwan and South Korea. A number of other countries have fully ‘Socialized Medicine’ where not only medical payments are done through a government agency, but almost all healthcare delivery is done by government employees (e.g. Great Britain and most of Scandinavia).

    The majority of industrialized countries (including such countries such as Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, Japan, Australia and New Zealand) have mixed public/private payment systems closer to various ‘Public Option’ policies suggested by various legislators and candidates in which basic universal coverage is supplied by a Medicaid style bare bones public option but additional services can be purchased either through direct payment or by means of various supplemental private insurance policies.

    For an (incomplete but illustrative) overview, see:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-payer_healthcare

    A more detailed description of various European health care systems can be found at:
    https://repub.eur.nl/pub/39673

    A comparison of UK, Australian and New Zealand health care systems can be found at:
    https://www.medrecruit.com/blog/nhs-medicare-new-zealand-public-health/

  8. Excellent post. Thank you.
    As a permanent resident in Mexico for 8 years, I qualified for the Mexican Health Insurance program. $50 per year, for me, in the basic health program than covered all medical care, including eye care. Drug rehab and dentistry were not included at that time. The program included many US educated doctors. Every small village in Mexico has a health clinic. The fee was nothing for Mexicans, and $5 for foreigners. Every “county” has a hospital for basic hospital care (90% of all cases). Hospitalization was covered in full by the national insurance program.
    If a poorer country like Mexico can prioritize the health of their people, certainly the US can. It is simply not a priority here. There is something inherently evil about profiting from the illness or injury of others.

  9. Paul Gibson, I have read and heard conflicting information about the Medicare For All proposal. What would it take to make this equitable for everyone in your opinion?

    • There is a good deal of conflicting information out there and the various forms of universal healthcare in place in other countries varies somewhat in each nation, so it is difficult to generalize. See Richard Welker’s comment below. But I don’t really understand your question as the whole idea of M4A is to be equitable for everyone.

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