I cease being surprised by brazen corruption, it is so fundamental to the American Way. Today we use a report from The Lever to describe how Biden accepted $47 million in health insurer campaign donations and then promptly took the kind of action that should be illegal: using an executive order to raise Medicare rates, a hike that will generate millions more in profit for insurers and pharma because those industries’ billions in profit are not quite enough, apparently. To pay multimillion dollar salaries and ensure healthy shareholder profits, it’s necessary to pass the largest Medicare rate hike in history. We also include video from political commentator and comedian, Russell Brand. His video would be hilarious if it were pure comedy instead of spot-on political commentary. Finally at the end of the post, we provide links to both of last week’s posts, our interview with Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, and a link to register for our July 13 Zoom Huddle focused on gun violence prevention. You won’t want to miss it.
Medicare Hike Benefits Insurers, Raises Premiums for Seniors & Disabled
From The Lever, in “Biden Hikes Medicare Prices And Funnels Profits to Private Insurers,” we learn:
Last week, the Biden administration quietly reaffirmed its decision to enact the highest Medicare premium hikes in history right before this year’s midterm elections. At the same time, President Joe Biden is endorsing a plan to funnel significantly more Medicare money to insurance companies and further privatize the government insurance program for older Americans and those with disabilities…
In effect, the higher premium increases will subsidize the larger payments to — and profits for — private insurance corporations. This comes after Biden raked in roughly $47 million from health care industry executives during his 2020 campaign.
The administration’s announcement comes as Biden officials move forward with a jolting 8.5 percent hike in payments made to private insurers operating Medicare Advantage plans next year.The Lever, “Biden Hikes Medicare Prices And Funnels Profits to Private Insurers.”
Biden’s move to inflate Medicare premiums in order to shift billions to private insurers is contrary to the principles of Medicare and all public insurance plans. But it is entirely consistent with how democracy functions in a capitalist economic system. In that capitalist context what you get are inspiring campaign promises, followed by a betrayal of those promises, in service to moneyed interests. With moneyed interests being health insurers, NRA, gas & oil, mega banks, and agribusiness. The same song, the same lyrics. Betrayed again.
On the 2020 campaign trail, Biden pledged as president to “…continue to defend our nation’s commitment to older Americans and people with disabilities through Medicare.”
But since taking office, Biden has expanded Medicare privatization by launching the involuntary ACO REACH program and through continuing to promote ever-increasing Medicare Advantage enrollment, and he has also raised premiums for Medicare recipients. The result, advocates say, is a situation in which Medicare’s sturdiness as an American institution is being steadily chipped away by well-connected corporate interests.”The Lever, “Biden Hikes Medicare Prices And Funnels Profits to Private Insurers.”
“Chipped away” understates the degree to which money talks in D.C. How do you think we wound up with Biden promoting hydrogen hubs all over the Western U.S? Perhaps it has to do with how well connected the gas & oil industry is with the Democratic Party, nationally and in NM. All the science points to hydrogen’s being a total failure as public policy from an economic and environmental perspective, but from the perspective of the flailing gas & oil industry it is a well-timed life raft. And so, we will use tax payer dollars to invest in hydrogen production that will never work, but that will allow the G&O industry to continue to profit. At the same time, that industry is reaping massive profits, taking advantage of the war in Ukraine to profit from skyrocketing oil prices. Meanwhile, instead of challenging the industry, Biden is proposing to eliminate the 18-cent federal tax on gas at the pump, a pittance of relief to Americans, coming at no cost to gas & oil profits.
To return to private insurers and their scheme:
“[The] privatization effort is reaching a frantic state, and Medicare Advantage is going to fail,” said Bill Kadereit, president of the American Retirees Education Foundation, due to the fact that the plans must pay profits to investors, unlike traditional Medicare plans. “The industry is hoping to cover up that failure with taxpayer subsidies that none of the taxpayers understand.
All Medicare recipients pay premiums for outpatient care, which is called Medicare Part B. That money can be funneled into traditional government Medicare plans, or into Medicare Advantage plans run by private insurers that are incentivized to limit the amount of care that elders receive.
The standard Part B premium for Medicare patients is now $170.10 per month — up 14.5 percent from last year, when it was $148.50. Half of the increase in premiums came from a single drug, Aduhelm, which, despite its June 2021 approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat Alzheimer’s disease, is not proven to do so.”The Lever, “Biden Hikes Medicare Prices And Funnels Profits to Private Insurers,”
So, the FDA approves an extraordinarily expensive drug that has not demonstrated any patient benefit but will create enormous profit for Biogen, the pharma who developed the drug. The furor that erupted over this scheme led Biogen to cut the cost of Aduhelm in half. Kinda makes you wonder how they set the initial price? Maybe something like this:
“How much can we get away with charging? Okay, double that, and if there’s push-back, we can then cut the price in half, still make our original profit goal and look like heroes.” Not bad for something that doesn’t work. Health policy in capitalism at its finest.
So, half of the rise in Medicare rates directly results from anticipated reimbursements for prescribing Adulhelm. Given how desperately America thirsts for an effective Alzheimer treatment, this rate hike would be a good thing… if Aduhelm actually worked.
After reviewing the drug’s marketing application, an FDA advisory panel was doubtful about the evidence proving Aduhelm’s efficacy. Ten out of 11 members of the panel voted against the drug’s approval – and the eleventh was unsure of the data. Despite the panel’s recommendation, the FDA approved the drug under its accelerated approval pathway.The Medicine Maker: “Addressing the Aduhelm Controversy“
Ten of eleven FDA advisors failed to see any evidence of patient benefit for Aduhelm. Yet Medicare recipients will pay for it nonetheless AND we will soon be barraged with TV ads showing older adults,sharp as tacks thanks to Aduhelm.
Russsel Brand Weighs In on Biden’s Medicare Move
I’ll admit, Brand is a tad odd, but he is passionate, witty, and has an acute grasp of the insane systemic dysfunction that is USA 2022. Check it out.
In solidarity and hope,
Paul & Roxanne
In Case You Missed It
Many New Mexicans have been travelling the last week, so to help you catch up, links to our last two posts.
SCOTUS Gone Mad: Strikes Down Roe & NY Gun Law & Ready to Strike Down Gov’t Capacity to Protect Environment, June 26.
The post above covered the death of Roe v Wade. Gone. Just like that, five males and one woman decided they could control women’s bodies and force them to give birth against their will. Fundamentalist certainty and self-righteousness, so much a part of the American ethos, are threatening to undermine what this country was supposed to be grounded upon: personal liberty. Earlier in the week, the Supreme Count struck down NY legislation to restrict the open carry of firearms. And we can expect more from this court, as they likely will soon decide who we can love and who we can marry. Indeed, as reported in Saturday’s NY Times The Morning, Clarence Thomas explicitly stated his intention to ban access to contraception and to remove protections for same-sex marriage and same-sex relationships. SCOTUS is also poised to strike down the government’s ability to regulate our environment. We comment on how the Court can no longer be counted on to protect our civil, environmental, or any other rights. And so, the November General election is critical to prevent a GOP Governor, a GOP majority in either chamber, or a coalition of GOP and conservative Dems emerging from the November results. An important post.
U.S. Senate Proposes Baby Steps to Fix a Badly Flawed Gun Violence Prevention System. What Will NM Do? June 22
In this post, we focused on the egregiously flawed gun violence prevention system in the U.S and the U.S. Senate’s baby steps approach to repairing it, despite historic and mounting public support for taking aggressive action. We also offer a brief update on a Radioactive & Hazardous Materials Interim Committee hearing.
Retake on the Radio, 6-18-22
Retake interviewed Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence. We discussed the epidemic of gun violence in America and what may be possible to achieve in the 2023 legislative session. Miranda is always an excellent interview and this is no exception.
Advocacy Huddle: Gun Violence Prevention & a Plan for the 2023 Legislature
Weds, July 13, 6pm-7:30
We are working with Miranda Viscoli, co-president of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, and representatives of Indivisible and the Santa Fe and ABQ school districts to organize this Zoom Huddle. In addition to Miranda, we will have a student activist from ABQ. We will conduct a deep discussion of what we want from the legislature in 2023 and advocacy strategies to achieve it. This will be an important learning opportunity to become informed and engaged in this work. You will leave with a clear idea of the goal, the strategy and what you can do now. Join us.
Register here. You must register to attend.