Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Who Does Max Baucus Really Represent?

Tuesday’s Tirade
Part of the Problem: Senator Max Baucus

"When the engineer of the health care reform train is getting more fuel from the HMOs and drug companies that any other Democrat on Capitol Hill, you have to wonder who is really driving the train and whether average Americans will be tied to the tracks," commented Carmen Balber, Director of Consumer Watchdog's Washington D.C. office.
~ Maggie Mahar , Health Beat

Bashing lobbyists is nothing new. Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, described lobbyists as "birds of prey" who "descend to get their share of the spoils" and vowed to ban them from his administration, if elected. Why? Because lobbyists work in the background to excessively influence policy.

It’s called influence peddling. Legalized bribery.

Senator Max Baucus is the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, a key position in determining the future of our health care in America. Does the public know that Baucus is one of the few democrats in Congress to attract sizeable campaign donations of pharmaceutical and health insurance industries?

“At the recent White House health care summit, Senator Baucus said that the insurance companies and drug companies had told him they would help drive a solution,” stated Maggie Mahar of Health Beat. Trudy Liebermann, a journalist for 35 years and Director of the Consumer Health Choices at Consumer’s Union added: "… Baucus says lobbyists just want the best for America. On camera, Baucus offered this opinion of them: 'They really care about our country,' he said."

Lobbyists do not represent the interests of the average American. They are a business whose interest is the bottom line. Max Baucus and others have no idea of the destructive forces at work, a systemic evil, within the health care system.

Take West Virginia, for example. Citizens are regularly denied rightful health care benefits in a state that has a troubling record of health care:West Virginia is 44th for overall health, #1 for obesity, #1 for smoking, #1 dirtiest state, #1 for depression and poverty, one of the worst states to medically deal with the mentally ill.

In West Virginia state government is working against the consumer to avoid policing health insurance companies. “W. Va. Code Section 33-2-9 requires the West Virginia Insurance Commissioner to 'thoroughly examine the financial conditions, and business affairs, of all insurers licensed to transact business in the State of West Virginia every five years.'" In February 2009 the West Virginia Insurance Commission defied state code by not performing a market conduct survey on Carelink Health Plans, Inc. of West Virginia, described in this blog as a ruthless and abusive health plan.

Max Baucus may not care about increased transparency and regulation but we certainly do. Laws are enacted to protect the citizenry, not the special interests groups. The citizens of West Virginia have lost dearly. If Max Baucus is listening to the wrong people as we suspect, we all may lose.

It never ends does it? Greed controls choices. Corruption begets corruption. People turn their backs on evil. Others are harmed. But, then, why should I care?

Tuesday’s Tale
Citizen Journalism

Citizen journalism is the concept of members of the public "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information," according to the seminal 2003 report We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information. Authors Bowman and Willis say: "The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires." ~Wikipedia

Four years ago I had no idea about the world of activism. I solely wanted my medically-necessary surgery that was denied me. I began to knock on doors to locate support.

Concerned citizens drove me to act, not just on my behalf, but on the behalf of vulnerable people in our society, the mentally ill and the elderly. Many lack the tools and time to pursue their health benefits as guaranteed by their plan. Many are unaware of a state government that does not care about justice as it refuses to regulate the health insurance industry.

Today I am a citizen journalist. I have discovered yet another avenue to speak justice to power. In a strategic move to educate the public I have become a “featured writer" on MSNBC’s online magazine Newsvine. People are beginning to listen.

My blog, Tuesday’s Tirades and Tales, has reached 700 unique visitors since I wrote my first blog on June 10, 2008. Many people repeat their visits, but none so much as Coventry Health Care, Inc., parent company of Carelink Health Plans, Inc of West Virginia and their attorneys. Coventry has visited my blog over 300 times! Incredible? Without a doubt.
Depositions have begun in my civil lawsuit Christine Stenger v. Carelink Health Plans, Inc. and Patrick Dowd for discrimination against someone with a disability. Does Coventry hope to discover something important to their defense? Am I stretching it to view this very unusual pattern as a sign that my lawsuit has merit? I believe so.

More key puzzle pieces are beginning to fit. By the time both the Plaintiff and Defense meet in courtroom, we will both have a great appreciation of each others’ strengths and weaknesses. We each have collected intimate knowledge of one another. But there’s a difference. My research does not come with a large price tag.

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