Health

A Smart Investment in Our Kid's Health

Sick handsIf opponents of health care reform could view the grant money in the Affordable Care Act as an investment in our children rather than wasteful spending, I believe at least some of them would eventually accept that we're better off with the law than without it.

I'd be especially confident if they took the time to visit some of the community facilities that will be able to meet the health care needs of thousands more Americans as a result of those grants.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration announced awards of $95 million to 278 school-based health center programs across the country. The grants -- the first of $200 million worth of awards between now and 2013 -- will help clinics expand and provide more medical services at schools nationwide.

ALEC and the Tobacco Industry

TobaccoThe American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is an influential, under-the-radar organization that facilitates collaboration between many of the most powerful corporations in America and state-level legislative representatives. Elected officials then introduce legislation approved by corporations in state houses across the U.S., without disclosing that the bills were pre-approved by corporations on ALEC task forces.

ALEC has had a long relationship with the tobacco industry. To explore this relationship, we studied publicly-available tobacco industry documents found in the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library (LTDL), an electronic archive created by the University of California San Francisco that contains 70+ million pages of previously-secret, internal tobacco industry documents obtained in the discovery phases of the 46 state attorneys general lawsuits against the tobacco industry. Those lawsuits were resolved in 1998. The documents were made public as a term of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between the states and the tobacco industry. Before now, ALEC documents in this database have not been a major focal point.

Insurance Exchanges Tilted Toward Health Insurers, Not Consumers

Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperThe insurance industry made it abundantly clear this week that it is in the driver's seat -- in both Washington and state capitols -- of one of the most important vehicles created by Congress to reform the U.S. health care system.

The Affordable Care Act requires the states to create new marketplaces -- "exchanges" -- where individuals and small businesses can shop for health insurance. In the 15 months since the law took effect, insurers have lobbied the Obama administration relentlessly to give states the broadest possible latitude in setting up their exchanges. And those insurance companies have been equally relentless at the state level in making sure governors and legislators follow their orders in determining how the exchanges will be operated.

FTC: "One Trick for a Tiny Belly" Ads are a Scam

"Trick of a Tiny Belly" adInternet users can't avoid those obnoxious, animated ads showing a cartoon woman with a flabby belly that shrinks, and then gets flabby again, over and over. The ad urges people to click to get "1 weird old tip" to help lose weight. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says the ads are really a three-part scam: First, people click on the ads and get taken to websites with names like "ConsumerOnlineTips.com" or "WeeklyHealthNews.com," that appear to be about dieting or health news. Next, those sites show an attractive TV reporter discussing the benefits of incorporating specific products made from berries, fruits or hormones, into the diet. The sites carry positive information about the products, supposedly from credible news sources like CNN, USA Today or ABC, and include brief "reader comments" extolling the virtues of the product. Those sites link to another site where people can order a "trial sample" of the featured product. But people who order the free sample find out later that they have actually agreed to pay $79.99 for an additional shipment of the product two weeks later, and another $79.99 for a shipment six weeks later, and so on until they cancel -- which apparently isn't easy. According to the FTC, the sites are a scheme to grab consumers' credit card information and pile on additional, unapproved charges. The ads have led to thousands of complaints of unauthorized charges. The FTC has filed multiple lawsuits against the people and companies behind the ads.

No

For-Profit Health Insurance: Where the Real Death Panels Lie

Remembering Nataline SarkisyanOn behalf of Grigor and Hilda Sarkisyan, I would like to invite Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia to attend the 21st birthday celebration of the Sarkisyans' only daughter, Nataline, this coming Saturday, July 9, in Calabasas, California.

Gingrey could consider it a legitimate, reimbursable fact-finding mission. He clearly needs to have more facts about the U.S. health care system before he starts talking about death panels again.

Gingrey seems determined to keep alive the lie that the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a., Obamacare) will create government-run death panels in the Medicare program.

Sarah Palin started the death panel fabrication when she claimed during the health care reform debate that a proposal to allow Medicare to reimburse doctors for talking to their patients about advance directives would be tantamount to establishing death panels deep in the federal bureaucracy. So many people believed her lie that Democrats felt they had no choice but to strip that provision from the final bill.

Insurers' Bait and Switch

Author Wendell Potter is the former head of PR for CIGNAMore and more Americans are falling victim to one of the most insidious bait-and-switch schemes in U.S. history. As they do, health insurance executives and company shareholders are getting richer and richer. This industry-wide plot explains how health insurers have been able to reap record profits during the recent recession as the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured continue to swell.

It also explains why the insurance industry and its allies are pulling out all the stops to kill a measure in the California legislature that could protect state residents from losing their homes and being forced into bankruptcy if they get seriously sick or injured.

On June 2, the California Assembly passed AB 52, a bill that would give state regulators the authority to reject excessive health insurance rate increases. Similar legislation has been introduced in other state legislatures, but nowhere are the stakes higher than in California -- not only because AB 52 would allow the insurance commissioner to turn down requests for unjustifiably high rate hikes, but also because it would enable the commissioner to reject increases in deductibles as well.

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