U.S. Senate Blocks Medicare Fix

Sensenbrenner, Ryan hold out for insurance industry

By Jack E. Lohman

HR6331 passed in the U.S. House but failed in the U.S. Senate, thanks to the financial contributions from the insurance industry to our esteemed politicians.

Isn’t democracy great?

Although the House voted 355 to 59 to preserve Medicare payments to physicians, Republicans Jim Sensenbrenner and Paul Ryan voted with the insurance interests and against Medicare. It gives a warm and fuzzy feeling to know that they (a) voted against Wisconsin seniors, present and future, and (b) voted against an efficient health care system that not only works well, but should become our national standard. Good guys these.

Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold voted correctly, in favor of saving physician payments and eliminating the subsidies to private insurers.

There were two aspects to the defeated HR6331…..

  1. It would have retained the payments to physicians treating “traditional” Medicare patients. George Bush and his followers want to eliminate public Medicare altogether, because “private” Medicare can give campaign contributions and public Medicare can’t. By reducing payments to physicians by 10.6%, which becomes effective July 1st, fewer physicians will accept traditional Medicare patients, and those patients will have to seek out “private” Medicare companies instead.
  2. We will now continue the taxpayer-paid subsidies to private insurers. In 2003 Bush signed a law allowing private insurers to “compete” with public Medicare. Roughly 20% of Medicare beneficiaries have chosen the private systems and 80% have remained with traditional Medicare. Problem is, private Medicare companies are paid (by taxpayers) up to 17% more than it costs for traditional Medicare!
    So much for private being less costly than public.

So here we have it. Politicians on the take are making decisions in the best interest of their contributors. It is puzzling that conservatives who oppose high taxes tolerate this corrupt system, but that’s the way it is.

The best, simplest, least costly, most efficient thing we could do is expand what has been working so well for years, Medicare. You get sick, you get care, and the caregiver gets paid. Nothing could be simpler. 

Every individual in America is paying for our health care system already, either through cost shifting, bankruptcy costs, or when employers add their costs to their product and we reimburse them at the cash register. We ought to simply extend Medicare to everyone and eliminate the 31% insurance bureaucracy waste. This would be a boon to U.S. businesses and would keep jobs in the country. But admittedly, the insurance industry that is enjoying the 31% waste wouldn’t like it a bit, and they are helping to fund the politicians’ campaigns. Political corruption at its finest!

Coincidentally, Sensenbrenner has investments in Merck, Pfizer, Medco Health, and Ryan has investments in Baxter, Medtronic, Tenet Healthcare, Pfizer. Both receive significant campaign contributions from the health care industry.


Since Sensenbrenner’s republican opponent, Jim Burkee, follows the health care ideology of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), it is assumed that he would have voted the same way as Coburn and Sensenbrenner. 

5 Responses to U.S. Senate Blocks Medicare Fix

  1. John says:

    It truly defies logic. Why people continue to buy into the Republicans backward ideology, I will never know. I will do all I can to get the word out. You have layed out the issue well in this article.

  2. Thanks, John. As you well know, no matter what your issue, follow the money and you’ll reach a politician at the other end. Turns out, though, while it is mostly, it is not only the Republicans. WDC provides the best guidance. Those in the right three right columns must be unelected. Term limited, if you will.

  3. Insuranceguy says:

    My Lohman I have read several of your articles and postings over the years. I love your passion, but is not totally on track. The 31% is not accurate for insurnace admin no matter how you measure it. There are scores of regional insurers that run extremely lean and are very efficient. I’ve studied them in-depth both internally and externally. There are a few that are bloated, but my 15 years of experience working in several capacities within insurance companies and on the other side as a scrutinizing broker for my clients, I have found most to be very efficient. The bottom line is we need reform. The question is what is the best way to increase access and make it affordable. I beleive it needs to go the other way with deregulation and when educated most folks believe the same. We all want the same goal – just have different paths. Thanks for your passion – life is too short not to have what you have……….Insurance guy.

  4. Thanks, Insurance guy.

    When you get old and have nothing else to do, it’s easy to have passion 🙂

    Actually, the 31% is not my number, but comes from Harvard and is confirmed by several other prominent folks. It includes the entire insurance bureaucracy, including the extra hospital and clinic billing clerks and administration needed to deal with the system. In some cases it may be high, but I doubt by much. Check the Resources page above or HERE.

    Yeah, there’s a lot of ways it could be changed to be more efficient, but I’ve learned over the years that the simplest is the most efficient. The real crux of the problem, however, are the politicians that are so easily bought and sold. Get the political money out of the equation and they’ll fix this thing overnight.

  5. […] Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner was spinning his vote for the insurance industry, or he truly doesn’t get […]

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