While Rev. Sandy Strauss eloquently quoted scripture supporting care of the poor, the sick and the injured one could hear angels singing in the background. As it was, the odd juxtaposition of events had a choir singing in the Capital rotunda just outside Majority Caucus Room 140 where the Pennsylvania House Health and Human Services Committee was listening to testimony for and against House Bill 1660, The Family and Business Healthcare Security Act.
H.B. 1660 would eliminate private and non profit health insurers and replace them with a single government agency tasked with collecting taxes, premiums and government grants to pay for all costs associated with providing every Pennsylvanian with complete medical care.
Dr. Walter Tsou opened the hearing with a slide presentation illustrating the need for reform. Chuck Pennacchio followed with his statement (posted here yesterday) and then took questions from the Committee. Several themes seemed to resonate through the three hour plus session. One was a constant comparison with Canada's system.
First of all HB 1660 does NOT institute a Canadian style system because all providers remain private. This is simply a publicly financed but privately delivered system of healthcare which eliminates the flaws of truly "socialized" medicine. In those systems, including Canada, all health care and medical providers work for the government.
Several legislators kept mentioning Canadians who come to the U.S. for medical treatment. This is a specious argument because it assumes the converse isn't also true when it is. Many Americans seek treatment in Canada and many purchase their drugs from Canada. Since H.B. 1660 does not create that same type of healthcare system however, these comparisons are moot.
The issue of waiting times, lines and rationing were also brought up in opposition to this bill. I simply cannot understand why these are issues in opposition. We have one million Pennsylvanians who are completely rationed OUT of the healthcare system because they are uninsured. They cannot even get in line for appointments for doctor visits. This is the ultimate form of rationing: people dying because they cannot obtain medical care and treatment.
When an insurance company denies an applicant due to pre-existing treatment how is that not rationing? When that company then denies care and treatment because they must put profits over lives how is that not rationing? These people are booted from line and all these idiot, moronic State Representatives can see is that bringing them into the system and providing them care is rationing? Morons, all of them.
Another common objection was the argument that competition is healthy and a single payer system eliminates competition in the industry. Competition is precisely what has resulted in some of the skyrocketing costs of healthcare. Each of these health insurance companies duplicates the management, marketing, administration and analysis involved in the enormous overhead. With 35% of our healthcare dollars swallowed up by these costs and multimillion dollar CEO salaries and marketing budgets competition is the culprit here. One payer, one administrative system, one CEO, one set of claims adjusters, one single payer entity will save 30% of our costs.
The Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce spoke in opposition to the bill and evaded an important question: how much does your organization earn by providing health insurance coverage? The woman refused to answer the question. Those in opposition to this bill all have vested interests in seeing the current broken one remain: profit. Insurance agents, insurance companies, all those who collectively provide coverage for members and reap huge commissions from the Blues, they all have a personal, vested financial interest.
They are why this system is broken. All of them are skimming off the money which could be covering those one million Pennsylvanians not covered and the millions more who are under insured. When they appear before the House to oppose this bill grab your wallet and hold it securely because that's their real goal: make a profit from your misery.
The good news coming from this hearing was a decision the Committee will hold further hearings on the bill and a collective support to authorize $100,000 to fund a comprehensive economic impact study so the precise numbers will be known for the cost of the system and the cost of benefits so income will be sufficient to fund disbursements.