Senate Plans to Order More Chickens

With so many Americans now unable to afford health insurance, the private insurance industry is facing a catastrophic problem: how to keep profits high, executive compensation exorbitant and campaign contributions excessive?

Fortunately, $200 million in lobbying and campaign contributions have convinced a majority in the senate (41 members) that the problem is not the fox or the hen house, the problem is the shortage of chickens. Agreeing with the house, the Senate will force every chicken-livered American above the poverty line and below the retirement age to get back in that hen house and act happy about it – 30 to 40 million of us.

The hen house will still be run by private, for-profit corporations not responsible to anyone (no public option, no Medicare buy-in, no co-op chicken coop in the Senate bill). Sure, insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny you coverage because you are old or sick or male or female, but they will charge you up to 3 times what others pay. Sure, there are a lot of wonderful little rule changes that will get us on the road (roads in Iraq are safer) to real reform. Sure, individuals and tiny businesses might get the chance to enter the hen house at rates similar to groups. Sure, a few years from now there will be some subsidies to help you afford health insurance until you are poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. Sure. We’re totally screwed.

There’s a tiny chance something good could happen in conference. Or, some of the Republicans purchased by the insurance lobby would accept a bigger bribe from Obama & Company. Or, maybe, they’ll just go home for holidays and forget all about it. Personally, I think I have a better chance free range.

Lee Leslie

Lee Leslie

I’m just a plateaued-out plain person with too much time on his hands fighting the never ending lingual battle with windmills for truth, justice and the American way or something like that. Here are some reader comments on my writing: “Enough with the cynicism. One doesn’t have to be Pollyanna to reject the sky is falling fatalism of Lee Leslie’s posts.” “You moron.” “Again, another example of your simple-minded, scare-mongering, label-baiting method of argumentation that supports the angry left’s position.” “Ah, Lee, you traffic in the most predictable, hackneyed leftist rhetoric that brought us to the current state of political leadership.” “You negative SOB! You destroyed all my hope, aspiration, desperation, even.” “Don’t you LIBERALS realize what this COMMIE is talking about is SOCIALISM?!?!?!” “Thank you for wonderful nasty artful toxic antidote to this stupidity in the name of individual rights.” “I trust you meant “bastard” in the truest father-less sense of the word.” “That’s the first time I ran out of breath just from reading!” “You helped me hold my head a little higher today.” “Makes me cry every time I read it.” “Thanks for the article. I needed something to make me laugh this mourning.” “If it weren’t so sad I would laugh.” "... the man who for fun and personal growth (not to mention rage assuagion) can skin a whale of bullshit and rack all the meat (and rot) in the larder replete with charts and graphs and a kindness..."“Amen, brother.”

  1. I have long supported change in the health care (insurance) industry. To briefly name one helpful upgrade — allowing our small business to provide health insurance coverage was a boon back in the day. There was a time when it wasn’t even possible to sign up for insurance because our company was too small.

    Now I’m enthusiastic about change because at this point, I can’t afford the medicine ($3,200 per month) I need to keep from being blind and crippled, and I also can’t afford the insurance ($2,100 per month) that pays for the medicine.

    I get it. I’m part of the problem. No profit having me on the roll, so insurance companies pass the costs onto you. And me. And yet somehow they manage to make huge profits for themselves and the stockholders. And if you own any retirement plan at all, that stockholder list probably includes you. And me.

    Unless it’s made possible to carry our insurance over state lines, to not worry about being dumped, to not have our rates climb further and further into the stratosphere, at this point I say health care, shmealthcare. Now I’m of a mind that the citizenry should gather together and simply cancel their health insurance on a pre-determined date (me at the front of the line). Such a collapse would be economically painful in a horrible, rippling sort of way. But when the wounds scabbed over, my guess is that the cost and availability of health care and insurance would drop to manageable levels.

    I think. Thoughts?

  2. Terri Evans

    Meg, I don’t know how you do it! The numbers you cited (and the risks of blindness, etc) are overwhelming. Somehow you soldier on and astound me with your courage. Have you considered seeking political asylum in some civilized country (Canada, or France, for instance)? You could claim that your life is at risk in the U.S.

  3. Lee Leslie

    Meg – I expect that the final bill will help many with stories like yours (8% cap on expenses to earnings without subsidy; small business tax credits and opportunity to buy insurance at much better rates). Of course, one must survive until after the next presidential election when most of the benefits go into effect and hope that the insurance companies won’t have raised so high by then that it can make a difference. I have hope that a Medicare buy-in or some form of public option will be added during reconciliation would change things a bunch.
    Over state lines? Not going to happen unless the quasi-non-profit-national-public-option-lite plan in Congress is adopted. Too much turf protection insurance corporations can protect on a state-by-state basis (they each own their state regulators).
    As for your canceling plan, many of us have already found that we can either keep our insurance, but not be able to afford to use it; give up insurance and pay inflated rates for a tiny bit of care playing the Russian roulette of a major problem then seek indigent care; or, borrow from friends and family in this unsustainable spiral.
    Best suggestion I have, is to buy your meds from Canada and/or seek foundation or big pharma to help you pay; apply for disability (takes almost 3 years in Atlanta, how is it in Miami?); beg a friend to hire you despite your inability to work full time; seek asylum in Canada, France, Australia or Great Britain.
    Of course, if the construction business continues to suck, chances are excellent that you’ll qualify for Medicaid for you are old enough for Medicare.

  4. Meg said:
    “Now I’m of a mind that the citizenry should gather together and simply cancel their health insurance on a pre-determined date (me at the front of the line). Such a collapse would be economically painful in a horrible, rippling sort of way.”

    This is exactly what I suggested last night to my husband. Bring the insurance companies to their knees. Without people paying into the their big black profit abyss every month, they will have only enough money to pay the medical bills for their remaining participants. Of course, Americans will NEVER do this.

    My husband and I have already had to drop our insurance because we had medical bills to pay (we had a straight 10K deductible with no prevention care or sick visits) and could no longer pay the insurance premiums and the medical bills. And we did have to pay the medical bills since those people in fact, provided services to us – unlike Assurant Insurance which provided NOTHING. I guess all of this means I am “free range” and my family will probably never have health insurance again.

  5. Is there anybody out there willing to take resposibility for their own problems? Look, I’m sorry you are sick and I’m sorry you are denied insurance because it is obvious that your premiums will not cover your expenses. I am in the same boat with you. The best I could get was a $5000.00 deductible with coverage for something catastrophic. We have come to believe that if we pay small premiums we can have everything covered and pass our costs on to others. Not so. We live in a capatalistic society and it has proved to be the best way to create wealth for all those willing to work hard. Socialism has failed everywhere it has been tried, yet we seem to be headed down that road. I am afraid for my children and grandchildren. If congress passes Obama Care, our offspring will be saddled with a debt they can never repay. We won’t live to see the carnage. Should we be willing to let this be our legacy?

  6. Lee Leslie

    Hey Farmer Dave – We do take responsibility when we wipe out a lifetime of scrimping and saving to pay our health care debts when an illness happens and we lose our incomes. We take our responsibility when we don’t have medicine help with pain from cancer and chronic illness. We do take our responsibility when we sell our homes to pay our premiums but have nothing left to pay our deductibles and co-pays. We do take our responsibilities when we lose our health care insurance because our family needs to eat. We do take our responsibility because we work hard and pay our taxes. There are choices we can make as a republic to amortize health care costs as we do our highways and it seems appropriate and civil. You call it socialism. I call anything less sociopathic. Capitalism can create wealth for the lucky and healthy. Health care costs takes it back for the unlucky and we’ll all one day be unhealthy. You have unwittingly become a puppet and played a fool by those who will one day laugh while burying you.

  7. Farmer Dave — as Lee shared, we do take responsibility. We did all the right things and still do. For a little extra on our personal but common story, on top of the $2,100 a month premium, we have a $4,000 deductible. So in January we’ll pay for that medicine out-of-pocket, plus the insurance premium, plus our income taxes, and along with that, our business insurance, permits, licensing and taxes so that we may stay in business (such as it is) which went up across the board, and auto taxes which also went up across the board (our business vehicle tags doubled for no clear reason), plus our homeowner’s insurance and windstorm insurance, which naturally went up, and so you see, Farmer Dave, we’re playing the game correctly and are being thoroughly squashed by every little thing that has nothing to do with eating.

    If I thought that the price of the medicine and insurance was necessary, I’d say, f— us then, that’s just how it is. But that isn’t the case, FD. Stockholder portfolios have risen at the very rate that we’re being tromped upon. Money disappears from the public coffers at the same rate we taxpayers pour it in. The rich are getting richer, the poor are still poor and the middle class — the necessary soul of this country — are very nearly done in and something has to give. I say a little socialized medicine, like that which works in other civilized countries very well, could help us to continue being productive citizens, helping us to help America be great.

    And the debt our children will be stuck with? Please. That’s so tired it sounds like a joke. How about the debt our children are stuck with because of the ridiculous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? “Thanks, George.” How about that debt? How about the debt that came with the War On Drugs? What a ridiculous war THAT is. It stuns me, the things that “conservatives” are willing to throw money at and how stingy of spirit they are when it comes to those things that can truly improve lives.

    I’m so thoroughly offended by your suggestion that the middle class aren’t taking responsibility for their lives that my breath is stuck.

    So to Terri and Lee? We really did have Australia on our minds for a couple of years. It requires something like a $200,000 bond for the very reason that they don’t want us swarming their borders for medical help. Our son lives most of the time in Costa Rica with his family and we were wild-impressed with medical care they received when their baby was born. Sadly, MS and the tropics aren’t friendly so I won’t be heading there anytime soon. On the other hand, Maine is just across the border from Canada, so if that project works out…? Who knows.

    We do just soldier on — Tom included and mostly, I’d say — because all of life is just one foot in front of the other. We’re nearly tapped out, though and the anxiety level is rising daily, thanks to the likes of Farmer Dave (it’s not just you FD, I have a brother who believes equally foolishly).

    Ah well.

  8. Hello Lee, I’ve been there, have you?

    My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in April of 2001. We spent a year of our lives consumed with chemotherapy treatments, surgery and radiation. I say our, for she bravely endured the pain and I supported her the best I could. When the bills came due and our insurance didn’t cover it all, I worked longer hours and found more jobs and paid the bills. No complaints. When the cancer metatisized in 2004 and she was given weeks to live we took her home and cared for her the best we could until she passed. When the bills came due and the insurance didn’t cover it all, I worked longer hours and found more jobs and paid the bills. No complaints. You see, all of this was my responsibility and no one else’s.

    We, the American People are up to our eyeballs in debt. Government take over of health care will not reduce that debt. All of the money you and I have scrimped and saved to get us through our older years will be worthless when the Federal Government defaults on the debt and you think this recession is bad, just wait. The rest of the world is so worried, there is talk of using another currency rather than the dollar for international transactions. Yet you advocate the government taking on another 16% of our economy. I disagree.

    Calling me a fool and a puppet really dosen’t add anything to the discussion. If you want to discuss this further, please stick to the subject. I think we can both air our views in a civil manner. Don’t you?

  9. Yes, I have. What would you have done if you were both sick?
    When I was born, health care was 2%. A generation of anti-trust and failed regulation has it at 16% and rising. It is unsustainable no matter how many jobs we work. I’m sorry for what you and your wife went through. It is cruel and unconscionable.

  10. No, it is life. We play the hand we are dealt, to use an old cliche. True health care reform will come when the government drops all of it’s mandates, allows us to buy across state lines, allows us to form groups even if we don’t work for the same company and comes through with true tort reform so that lawsuits with merit may move forward and those without are punished for filing. Insurance companies are not the bad guys they are made out to be. They operate in a corporate environment, they have stockholders to appease and are burdened by excessive government mandates and regulation. We hate them and scramble to buy their product anyway. If we bring them down as is suggested, who picks us up? Based on the way our government has managed Social Security and Medicare I am not optomistic about the new legislation that will be passed. I know I’m in the minority here and Meg, I am sorry for your troubles. When government takes over health care we will not live to regret it but our offspring will. We’ll all be old enough to be dispensible.

  11. Webfairy

    We disagree. I believe when we are dealt a bad hand we have a moral obligation to right the wrong for so others won’t have it as tough. You see, I worry that the debt our children will pay is our own. I worry that our children will be paying more than 20% of their incomes for health care insurance and that insurance won’t protect them adequately. Read the post. I don’t like the Senate bill. But to do nothing, is immoral.

  12. I find it VERY ironic that the one person on this thread who complains about the concept of “socialism” has the word FARMER in his name. So, Dave, what kind of farmer are you? The kind who gets paid by the government to dump milk when there is a surplus? Or the kind who gets paid to leave fields fallow because of a corn or wheat surplus? If government intervention is appropriate in farming, why not in health care?
    For myself, I don’t agree with most government farm subsidies, and don’t receive any. I do, however, believe that universal healthcare/socialized medicine (that’s NOT a bad word, by the way) IS what a responsible government provides its people. I’m sure you would agree that fire departments putting out anyone’s fire was a good change to that system (remember that in the past, you had to pay for a plaque to get your fires put out!). And having police departments available to work against crime in our neighborhoods is a good thing. So I, and many friends I have who are lucky enough to live in civilized countries who provide health care to all, can simply NOT UNDERSTAND a point of view that says that health care is not a RIGHT. We particularly don’t understand it when most of the folks taking that position also claim to be “christians”. Read the book of Acts, if that’s what you claim to be, Farmer Dave. Your attitude makes me very sad. I see that you are more proud of paying your bills than you are compassionate towards those who don’t have the opportunities that you had.

  13. Ann your comments have hit a raw nerve in that farmers don’t have a choice for government being envolved in their business. Who do you think suffers when we boycott countrys that import our food stuffs? It certainly is not you or any one else that doesn’t depend on agriculture for a living. Farmer Ann HA! Hows your petunias growing.

  14. C Smith… It doesn’t matter if I agree with agricultural subsidies or not, as I’m not trying to get rid of them, so I’m not going to get into a specific discussion on them. What my point is, which you seemed to have missed, is that there are MANY areas of our lives where the government takes funds/taxes from those who can pay them and uses that to provide funds for programs that benefit us all directly or indirectly (ie – farm subsidies mean cheaper groceries). I simply can not understand why so many people seem to think that there is a problem with doing the same thing to ensure that we have a healthier nation. That will save us countless dollars in the long run! And, it is just plain immoral to do otherwise.

  15. Right and my point is every farmer in the United States knows what happens when the government takes over an industry- conform or get out! No free market there.

  16. C Smith… There is a growing group of physicians in this country who are becoming more and more vocal about their willingness to work with Medicare and Medicaide, but their UNwillingness to work with most private insurance companies. I lost TWO quality doctors in the span of 2 years because they stopped accepting the insurance we had at the time. It is the “free market” that got us into this mess. The “free market” led us to be outranked by about 39 other countries with regards to overall quality of health and health care. “Government” is not the enemy. It’s an organization of individual people, just like corporations are. The only question is if the people in charge are doing the right thing. I see far too many corporate top dogs taking vastly more than their fair share of the pot. And the ones in Washington who support the status quo are doing the same thing. Nixon was doing the same thing when he got us into this HMO mess. Things must change. Health care is a RIGHT.
    And one last thing CSmith… I’d love to debate you on farm policies some time in another forum, but right now I have to go back to taking care of the sheep and goats and chickens. The only Petunia I have is a goat.

  17. Hello Farmer Ann!
    Yes I do farm and no I do not take government subsidies. If you take the man’s money then you are beholden and you have to do as the man says. I am very independent. I want government to be much smaller than it is. I am a capatalist and a free market champion. Government is the enemy. They want to control your every day life and you are willing to give them that priviledge so you don’t have to make decisions for yourself. You have told me who you are. If that’s the way you feel, fine. I don’t agree with you at all, in fact we are 180 degrees opposite. That’s what makes the world go around. So, attack me as you wish. I don’t care. But I am interested on your take about what has happened in the Senate within the last few days.

  18. Howdy Farmer Dave!
    No, I’m not interested in having the government take over my every day life and make decisions for me, but I AM interested in having any organization that can provide quality health care access to all people to please do so. In my opinion, the best organization available happens to be our government. They do a pretty good job with Medicare (according to the majority of doctors and sr. citizens who know first hand), so I think they’re up to the task of handling a system that makes sure we ALL have access to proper medical care (as opposed to skipping it entirely or running to an emergency room as a last resort). I have no problem with real free markets, which is why I do have a problem with some farm subsidies, and the commodities market’s involvement with farming. And if you think we have free markets in this country, think again. Government isn’t our main problem… big business is! Ask one of those farmers who lost thousands of dollars or more when their crop was accidentally tainted by Monsanto genetics, and they got sued. As for what has been going on in Washington over the past few days? I’m not satisfied. I believe there are too many politicians with hands in the pockets of big business lobbyists… of all kinds. They are the ones we should be afraid of. I believe that the ONLY solution to the health care crisis is for us to join the REST of the civilized world and offer universal health care to everyone in this country. I agree with my friends from England and Norway who say they just don’t get it. They even cover Americans who are on holiday in their countries, so they really don’t understand why we can’t agree to cover ourselves in our own land! And on that, yes, Farmer Dave, we are 180 degrees opposite. And it still makes me sad. We are so easily brain washed by big business. We think we have it so much better, but we’re wrong. But what we CAN do is make it better! It will simply take a lot of compassion and even more common sense.

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