Surprise, High Health Deductibles Defer Treatment and Kill People!

New Orleans     Sometimes the gap in understanding the impact of wealth differentials, or what in the old school we called class differences, is so stark that it just blows the top of my head off.  An example today in The New York Times was so clear that it forces me back to beating a drum I was hitting all too recently about the impact of high deductibles for so called “skinny” health plans that were allowed by Congress and the Obama administration to qualify under the Affordable Care Act.

The headline was promising: “High Deductibles, Deferred Treatment.”  Ok, it was a “no, duh” thing, but sometimes there’s no harm in stating the obvious until people get the point.  Then reporter Reed Abelson provides this assertion about deductibles, writing, “High-deductible plans have become commonplace, a deterrent used by companies to lower health care costs by discouraging unnecessary tests or treatments.”  He doesn’t challenge that claim.  He offers it for all of us to swallow whole, hook-line-and sinker!  No, Reed, high-deductible plans are not a “deterrent” to “lower health costs.” Among other things they are a way being used by companies to force their lower waged workers to elect NOT to take the measly, but “qualified” health policy they offer their workers, so that they have NO insurance whatsoever saving the company 100% of the costs and allowing them to avoid 100% of the penalties.  Wakeup and look around at what is happening to lower income, service-based workers in nursing homes, home care, mental health facilities, janitorial, wait staff and other jobs, please!

The story tries to recover.  Since the reporter can’t fathom the millions of workers priced out of health coverage by their low wages and their companies’ draconian health plan, he does understand some random study since it has a Harvard connection and, lo and behold, finds that women with insurance deductibles of at least $1000 will delay or defer treatment.  I could provide the names of literally thousands of women working in nursing facilities under contract with our union that would jump at the chance to have health insurance with only a $1000 deductible.  Instead, the economics of the situation make it more financially attractive to pay the penalty for not having health insurance than to pay 9% of their gross wages and thousands of dollars in deductibles before they access any health benefits.  Need I mention once again that this is all about the company avoiding 100% of any health care costs for its hourly workers and not about “discouraging unnecessary tests and treatment.”

Abelson helpfully notes that half of all “covered” workers are enrolled in plans with a deductible “of at least $1000” and that 11% of covered workers have a deductible of $3000 or more.  The phrase “covered workers” is the critical one here.

The tragedy in the failure of our national health program and the loopholes it allowed employers is in the uncounted millions of workers and their families who are deliberately priced out of care.  Perhaps you can imagine the intended consequences for millions of working families who have deferred necessary tests and treatments because there are caught in the gap between not qualifying for Medicaid and their companies’ skinflint policies.  We could start with the hundreds of thousands of headstones in the nation’s cemeteries of men and women dead before their time of preventable causes.

Write that story in the New York Times!


No Room for the Little People in Trump World

Little Rock   The little people are taking a beating in Trump’s Washington and the rest of America. Behind the curtain while the wildness and rants are on display on stage, the march to unravel rights and protections for regular, low-and-moderate income Americans as citizens and consumers is relentless.

Vice-President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote this week in a gift to big and small corporations, banks, Wall Street, and sneaky, fast dealers everywhere to allow corporations to use the fine print to force consumers to arbitrate any grievances with a company, rather than allowing them to collectively join with other consumers, similarly afflicted, in a class action lawsuit. In a classic example of double speak, corporate lobbyists claimed on the basis of the few arbitration awards that consumers won more money. The cumulative total though was $500,000 for the total arbitration awards versus over $1 billion for the class action settlements. Talk about taking advantage of short attention spans and American math deficiencies, wow!

In another example of how outrageous everything is getting, the Illinois Attorney General sued to stop a payday lending sketch outfit in that state and elsewhere from forcing workers making less than $13 per hour from having to sign non-compete clauses if they left the company, essentially blocking one of the few powers workers had there: the threat of exit. Sure they can leave, but they can’t use the skills they developed in that job in any related company. The feds are asleep at this switch, but some 18 state legislatures have passed similar non-compete allowances for companies.

Trying to hang on to your health insurance, lower drug and medical prices, and a bit of protection from the Affordable Care Act for your family? Sure, you are, and why wouldn’t you, but understand the odds. A report says that the pharmaceutical, hospital and health industry spent half a billion dollars for lobbying last year. It won’t be enough to save your loose change. You better find some friends. A lot of them! They’re running it, and we’re running from it.

Consumers, regular citizens, workers, and others just need to realize our line for the next three years starts at the back…way back! The FCC says media conglomerates can own radio, TV, and newspapers in the same markets in coming years: one voice will become the only voice. Federal lands are being opened for extraction and 77 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico are going up for the highest bidding for oil exploration, while the market is glutted. Environmental regulations are being rolled back so fast we will be lucky to be able to drink water or breath air. And, the beat goes on.

While we’re watching the reality-horror show and pinching ourselves that this all can’t be happening, the corporate lobbyists and the haterators are stealing the country away from us, piece by piece, day by day.