Saturday, April 18, 2009

Don't Let Private Insurance Dominate the Senate Finance Committee Hearings

Sen. Max Baucus, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the same, have put together an ambitious schedule dedicated to producing a health care reform bill by the summer. Their next wave of roundtable discussions is set to begin April 21.

Curiously, despite the fact that the VA has shown far more success managing patients with chronic diseases and comparative effectiveness research, as well as Health IT, no one from the VA will be present. No one representing coordinated care – not even from the Mayo Clinic. No one to talk about the medical home. No patient advocates. Only one “activist” group in the National Partnership for Women and Families (a great advocacy group, but hardly the first name you think of in the health care reform community.)

However in the group of 12 invited participants, there will be 4 (FOUR!) individuals working for the insurance industry in some form or fashion.

There’s Dr. Allan M. Korn, Chief Medical Office for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. There’s Roy Williams, CEO of Aetna. There’s Glenn Hackbarth, who is currently chair of MedPac, the payment advisory committee tasked with analyzing cost and quality of care in Medicare. What prepared Mr. Hackbrath for being able to advise Medicare on, say, how much we should pay the private plans that make up Medicare Advantage? How about some time as an executive for Harvard Community Health Plan? There’s also Dr. Glenn Steele, also with a background as a surgeon, who’s president of the Geisinger Health System in Danville, PA, a network of provider physicians and hospitals, complete with … yes, surprise, the Geisinger Health Plan, selling HMO and PPO products since the 1970s.

Write to Baucus and Grassley and demand a fair debate and a fair balance of speakers as they work towards universal health care. Make sure they know we are paying attention. Tell them that their job is to help create a plan that best help American Citizens, not the insurance industry. And I hope you will add that you really want to have a spokesperson for single payer at the table.

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