Saturday, February 23, 2008

Companion Guide to the Democratic Debate - Part II

More on the Opening Comments

In their opening comments during last Thursday's debate from the Univ. of Texas in Austin, Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama touched on several topics many of which involve corporate corruption, greed, and/or poor government oversight. Among the issues raised by the candidates were:

  • Greedy Health Insurers and Heartless Providers;
  • Predatory Lenders, Subprime Loans and the Mortgage Crisis;
  • NAFTA;
  • and, Children's Healthcare.

So let's take a look at these topics.

Greedy Health Insurers and Heartless Healthcare Providers.

During her opening comments Senat
or Clinton mentioned that she want to fight against health insurers who discriminate against people because they're sick. She was not exaggerating.

Last November the LA Times exposed a health insurer that was tying employee bonuses to dropping sick policyholders. The Times reported:

" Woodland Hills-based Health Net Inc. avoided paying $35.5 million in medical expenses by rescinding about 1,600 policies between 2000 and 2006. During that period, it paid its senior analyst in charge of cancellations more than $20,000 in bonuses based in part on her meeting or exceeding annual targets for revoking policies, documents disclosed Thursday showed."
Earlier in the year the Times reported that similar shenanigans were occurring at Blue Cross.

" Blue Cross of California "routinely" violated state law when it canceled individual health insurance coverage after policyholders got pregnant or sick, making no attempt to determine whether they did anything to merit such "harsh" treatment, according to a state investigation of practices that appear to be industrywide.

State regulators plan similar investigations of other health plans in California, and the findings against Blue Cross ratchet up the risk of liability for other insurers, many of whom face lawsuits from consumers who claim they were illegally dumped and subjected to substantial hardships.

As a result of its unprecedented investigation, the Department of Managed Health Care on Thursday said that it had fined Blue Cross $1 million -- an amount immediately criticized by canceled policyholders and consumer advocates as too small to matter to an insurer whose parent company, WellPoint Inc., earned $3.1 billion in profit last year on revenue of $57 billion."

And today the New York Times reports:

In some cases, doctors say, patients who could make more informed health care decisions if they learned whether they had inherited an elevated risk of diseases like breast and
colon cancer refuse to do so because of the potentially dire economic consequences.

Of course not all insurers are trying to drop policyholders. Some are just denying individuals the type coverage that they need.

The following video is of an emotional town hall meeting in Manchester, N.H., John and Elizabeth Edwards were joined by the family of Nataline Sarkisyan, who passed away in December after her health insurance company ( CIgna ) refused to pay for the liver transplant that she needed.

Predatory Lenders

During his opening comments Senator Barack Obama referred to a San Antonio couple of whom he stated "as a consequence of entering into a predatory loan are on the brink of foreclosure and are actually having to cut back on their medical expenses, because their mortgage doubled in two weeks. "

Today many people immediately associate the term 'predatory lending" with the subprime mortgage scandal. However, predatory lending practices take many forms -- from "payday loans" to "high interest credit cards" to "subprime mortgages."

In her article "Predatory Lending: A Virus We Can Eliminate", Ellen Schloemer of the Center for Responsible Lending examine the predatory lending practice of "payday loans."

The CRL has determined that this form of p
redatory lending "costs American families more than $25 billion every year." It further states: "By 'renting' a bank's charter, payday lenders avoid usury limits in the states where they operate - thumbing their noses at the intentions of state lawmakers and continuing to take hard-earned dollars from people who don't have any dollars to spare."
As the CRL reported:

" After the Pentagon reported that widespread abuse of military borrowers by predatory lenders was hurting military families and undermining military readiness, Congress moved to cap annual interest rates for loans to military borrowers at 36%, the usury cap many states enforce on their smallest loans to prevent loan sharking.

Senators Jim Talent (R-MO) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill, which passed Congress on September 30, 2006. In addition to the 36% cap on annual interest rates, the amendment prohibits use of a personal check or other method to access the borrower’s bank account, or the title to their vehicle as collateral for a small loan. The law will take effect October 2007, unless the Department of Defense works to make it effective sooner."


Also mentioned during Senator Obama's comments was NAFTA. This acronym for the North American Free Trade Agreement has become a dirty word for just about anyone whose job has been outsourced to an offshore firm, whose plant has been shut down and replaced by one in a third world nation, and anyone who can't find a blue collar job at a reasonable wage.

In all fairness, NAFTA seemed like a good idea to most people when it was conceptualized. However, it seems that everyone in Washington was asleep or in a corporate lobbyist's pocket when it started to work to the detriment of American workers and small businesses.

A great resource for information on NAFTA is the website of the organization "Public Citizen."

The Children's Health Insurance Program

And finally, Senator Clinton proclaimed that "350,000 children in Texas get health care every month because (she) helped to start the Children's Health Insurance Program."

According to
: "Clinton is ... on solid ground saying that she helped to create SCHIP. Much of the credit for SCHIP usually goes to Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who shepherded the legislation through a Republican-controlled Congress. But the Clinton campaign has said previously that she used her influence behind the scenes to push for SCHIP, and there is evidence to support that.

Soon after the legislation passed, the New York Times reported, 'Participants in the campaign for the health bill both on and off Capitol Hill said the first lady had played a crucial behind-the-scenes role in lining up White House support.' "

Related posts:

Insurance, Healthcare, Greed & the Corruption of th
e Capitalist Soul

Banks Will Pay Less to Borrow Money While Consume
rs Will Pay More

For Minorities, Signs of Trouble in Foreclosures
published February 2006

What Would Lincoln Say Now?
a commentary on the report of deplorable conditions at Walter Reed Veterans Hospital

A full transcript of the CNN/Univision Democratic Presidential Debate is available in the CNN Presidential Election Center

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