Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Dark Days of Health Care

Tuesday's Tirade

Jennifer Gigliello. Hannah Devane. Ivyl Garnes. Kyler, 3. Julia Slaven. Selah Schaeffer. Mary Casey. Steven Hailey. Tracy Pierce. Lisa Howard. Dale Fausset. Denied life.

There have been some very dark days in our history when people believed falsehoods and evil flourished because good people remained indifferent.

Adolf Hitler murdered millions of Jews.

Wall Street financial institutions committed crimes that wiped out millions.

The indescribable genocides in Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. To identify a few.

America was caught sleeping. Or was it? More importantly, will we allow inhumane treatment of others for the sake of profit again? As critical decisions are being made in Congress today about health care that may mean life or death to many, do you understand that deceit and intrigue are a part of this decision? Where is the anger?

It is serious. Very serious. Google the names of the people listed in the headlines. What do they have in common? They are only numbers to some health plans. Numbers who were denied quality health care though it appeared the benefits had always been a part of the consumers’ benefits packages.

Today one cannot be too careful what he hears or reads about the health care issue. Spin and half-truths diminish understanding. Is that not what one insurance regulatory body hopes to do with US News and World Report Best Health Insurance Plans? While the well-known regulatory body NCQA talks about rigorous standards, those few who dig have discovered that NCQA was formed on 1979 by organizations supporting HMOs.

Rigorous standards? Just voluntary information. US News and World Report? Just an advertisement that is laid out so well that one easily misses that it is promotional material, spinning half truths. Entrapment? False adverting? It works.

NCQA does not want you to know of their sinister beginnings. Max Baucus does not want you to know that he is the highest Democratic recipient of donations from insurance companies. And the health plans do not want you to learn of the outrageous profits that pay executives like former Coventry Health Care CEO Dale Wolf an OBSCENE $32,000,000 salary package.

There was a lot of outrage over Ponzi scams, perks at AIG but it was too late. Do not make the same mistake. It’s time to raise your voices and demand the truth from your representatives in Congress. Do not wait. And do stay healthy. I would not want you to find out how insufficient your coverage may be.

Tuesday’s Tale
WV PEIA’s Plight

Suspicious behavior? Poor judgement? Corruption? This story, I believe, describes a bizarre journey.

It begins with West Virginia’s Governor Joe Manchin’s appointment of Ted Cheatham to be the Director of West Virginia PEIA. It continues with a lucrative contract for medical coverage awarded within a few short months to the highest of three bids, Coventry Health Care, Inc. of Bethesda MD. Cheatham is the former CEO of a Coventry company.

Now with legislators already hearing from very unhappy retirees, the end is near. It did not, however, play out as I thought with the many unhappy consumers demanding a change in insurance carriers. No, quite the opposite.

Here’s just one of many reports:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia's health care program for public employees decided Thursday to end subsidies for retirees, starting next year with all new hires, and was promptly told to expect a lawsuit.

American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia President Judy Hale vowed to sue following the vote by the finance board for the Public Employees Insurance Agency.

"It's one of the things that helps us recruit teachers, retain teachers," said Hale, whose group continuously battles for pay raises, with mixed results. "It's outrageous in light of teacher shortages ... We will settle this in court."

Board members countered that the change puts West Virginia's coverage more in line with that of other states. But Hale also questioned the board's ability to cast such a vote during an emergency meeting. She further blamed Gov. Joe Manchin, seeing his fingerprints on the outcome.

"This appears to be a well-planned sneak attack on public employees by PEIA," Hale later said in a statement.

A Manchin spokesman said the governor believes the board "did what they thought would be best for the state and its employees."

"Certainly the governor is sympathetic with Judy's concerns, and wishes there were an easier decision," spokesman Matt Turner said. "Any time finances are involved, tough decisions have to be made."

But other groups representing public employees said they are consulting lawyers over the move.

"I wouldn't rule anything out," said President Dale Lee of the West Virginia Education Association. "We will do everything we can to ensure that this benefit continues to be provided so that we can retain and attract the best and brightest to this profession."

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