As efforts to gather enough signatures to recall Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker got underway, the Walker administration appears to be changing its tune on some issues. Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who is also a target of the recall efforts, released an ad this week on her campaign YouTube channel, "RebeccaForReal," where she discourages viewers from signing a recall petition so that the state can avoid the cost of a special election. The Lt. Governor argues that the money ($7.7 million is her estimate) should be spent on "what matters most," like school books for kids, health care for the poor, and raises for teachers.
Opponents of the Affordable Care Act who believe the Supreme Court will declare the law unconstitutional are going to be disappointed next year when a majority of the nine justices vote to uphold it. It will likely be a 5-4 decision, but moderate conservative Anthony Kennedy will, I'm confident, recognize that without the law, the free-market system of health insurance, so highly valued by conservatives, will implode, sooner rather than later.
The high court announced earlier this week that it will hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of the law next March. A decision is expected in June, just a few weeks before the parties hold their conventions. Regardless of which way the justices go, the decision will ensure that health care reform will be as contentious a campaign issue as it was in 2008.
The special interests seeking to gut those portions of the health reform law that would be of greatest benefit to consumers clearly believe there is no such thing as historical memory in Washington.
Why else would they bring one of their old front groups out of the storage locker, with just a single new word added to its name? A front group designed to persuade Americans that what they might have thought was in their best interests really isn't after all.
If you have no idea what you're paying good money for when you enroll in a health insurance plan, there's a good reason for that: insurers profit from your ignorance. And they're waging an intense, behind-the-scenes campaign to keep you in the dark.
In my first appearance before Congress after leaving the insurance industry, I told members of the Senate Commerce Committee that insurers intentionally make it all but impossible for consumers to find out in advance of buying a policy exactly what is covered and what isn't, and how much they'll be on the hook for if they get sick or injured. Insurers are quite willing to provide you with slick marketing materials about their policies, but those materials are notoriously skimpy when it comes to useful information. And the documents they provide after you enroll are so dense that few of us can understand them.
Members of Congress and the Obama administration have assured us that on January 1, 2014, junk health insurance plans -- which offer only the illusion of adequate coverage to the millions of Americans enrolled in them -- will become a thing of the past.
Among those who clearly don't believe those plans are headed for extinction are the insurance companies that market these highly profitable plans, and the employers that buy them -- primarily restaurant chains and retailers with high employee turnover.
If I were President Obama, I would send one of my aides to the Chicago suburbs later this week to see first-hand just how determined these companies are to continue selling these plans -- which are euphemistically called "mini-med" and "limited-benefit policies" -- long past 2014.
The lobbyists for U.S. health insurers surely have to be feeling a little uneasy knowing that thousands of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators who have been marching and protesting in Washington as well as New York and other cities might target them in the days ahead. After all, the headquarters of the insurers' biggest lobbying and PR group, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), at 601 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., is just blocks away from Freedom Plaza, where the demonstrators have set up camp -- and problems with health insurers appear to be near the top of the list of protesters' concerns.
The Kaiser Family Foundation just released the findings of its annual survey of businesses to determine how much the cost of employer-sponsored health coverage has gone up. There were some unexpected findings.
One was that the average cost of annual premiums for family coverage is now more than $15,000. The 9 percent increase in the cost of health insurance over last year caught many people by surprise because it represented a bigger hike in premiums than in recent years.
October is fast approaching, with its annual deluge of pink ribbons and cause marketing campaigns that leverage emotions surrounding breast cancer to sell products. In past years, PRWatch has reported on questionable "pinkwashed" products like buckets of fried fast food, cringeworthy "I Heart Boobies" bracelets marketed to teenagers, and even a pink "breast cancer awareness" Smith and Wesson handgun.
This year, the Susan G. Komen Foundation -- the nonprofit organization that created the corporate phenomenon of pinkwashing -- is hawking its own highly questionable pinkwashed product: a perfume called "Promise Me" that retails for $59.00 a bottle and reportedly contains chemicals, some of which are not listed on the label, that are a suspected hormone disruptor, a known neurotoxin and an anticoagulant banned for use in human food, respectively.
If you think Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to privatize Medicare is dead, think again.
Last week, the insurance industry and its allies began what I predict will be a massive campaign to sell the public and policymakers on the idea of moving forward with the Ryan plan -- albeit with a few tweaks and new a new sales pitch to make it seem more consumer-friendly.
An outfit called the Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC) announced in a press release a scheme that could be called Ryan-lite, but don't be fooled: the plan would -- to use a favorite industry term -- take us down the "slippery slope" toward a complete corporate takeover of the Medicare program. (Insurers and their allies for years have warned Americans that enacting sweeping health care reforms they don't like would lead us down the slippery slope toward socialism.)