Washington’s Brand of Crony Capitalist Medicine

November 13, 2012
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Handshake. Meeting two businessmen. Isolated 3D imageDoes AARP really speak for the elderly? Or the AMA for doctors?

In Washington, AARP (the American Association of Retired Persons) is said to represent the interests of retirees in arguments about medicine. Their endorsement of President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was mentioned reverently during the October 3rd presidential debate. Similarly, the AMA (American Medical Association) is said to represent the interests of doctors.

But do these groups actually represent anyone other than their members? Is their support basically for sale?

Consider AARP. It gets only about 20% of its revenue from its members. Over 50% comes from its medical insurance business where it has the largest share of “Medigap” policies, the policies that fill in the holes in traditional Medicare. When the administration sought AARP’s support for the Affordable Care Act, it promised to exempt Medigap policies from the requirement that insurers could not turn away people with preexisting conditions. Not only that, it also promised to exempt Medigap policies from rate review. (Ordinarily, health insurance companies must tell consumers when they want to increase insurance rates for individual or small group policies by an average of 10% or more.) In the end, Medigap was exempted from most of the law.

If that weren’t enough, the Affordable Care Act targets Medicare Advantage plans run by other private insurers. If these do not survive, and we expect they won’t, seniors currently in these plans will fall back into traditional Medicare and need—you guessed it—Medigap coverage, the field that AARP dominates.

Given these deals, South Carolina senator Jim DeMint may not be exaggerating when he calls the relationship between AARP and the White House “a protection racket.” He also alleges that AARP has engaged in a secret lobbying campaign to prevent Medigap reforms which would have saved 80% of of seniors enrolled an average of $415 a year.

What about the AMA, then? Is it doing what it says it is doing in Washington—protecting the best interests of doctors? Perhaps not, if the dwindling number of doctors who are currently members is any indication.

The word in Washington is that the administration assured AMA support for its legislation by 1) promising not to implement doctor reimbursement cuts in Medicare that had previously been written into law, and 2) threatening to pull the medical coding contracts with the US Department of Health and Human Services that constitute the largest share of the AMA’s income, estimated by one source to be $50–80 million.

Have you noticed your doctor filling out a yellow code sheet indicating what services he or she has provided? That is a coding system run by the AMA and paid for by the government—and it is a monopoly. Have others tried to offer a competitive coding system? Yes, and a much better coding system at that. It is called the ABC system, which we reported on two years ago, but Health and Human Services has essentially blocked it from becoming competition for the AMA. No wonder Dr. Richard A. Armstrong says, “The AMA is a corporation in the business of selling and protecting its [coding system] income stream, not its doctor members.” (Read more about the ABC coding system in this article.)

There are a lot of things wrong with American medicine today, especially its disregard for real prevention in the form of diet, supplements, and exercise in favor of toxic drugs and surgery. But much of the problem, in the final analysis, goes back to a crony capitalist system dominated by special interests and their allies in government.

With the election over, it’s a good time to remember that crony capitalism permeates both parties, and we have a lot of work to do to keep medicine a “helping” profession with high ethics, not a place for special interests to get rich.


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23 Responses to “Washington’s Brand of Crony Capitalist Medicine”

  1. Marc Authier says:

    And it is killing people big time. USA crony capitalist medecine is 100% more costly than all its western counterparts ! Take the scandals going up on cancer research for example. USA when it comes to food and health is the most terryfying country on Earth.

       1 likes

  2. Louise Esther Rothstein says:

    Look at your medical insurance policy-look at anybody’s insurance policy:
    Since none of these policies insure on multiple chemical sensitivities none of the 48 million American citizens who have it can really get help.

    Oh. They can get “help.”
    But such “help” doesn’t help them.

    “MCS Support Groups” online do report what would help.

       0 likes

    • Kim Diedrich says:

      You can get a heavy metal detox – if one doesn’t work keep trying. Fungal and parasitic invaders also need to be eliminated and vitamin & mineral deficiencies replenished. Don’t disregard natural supplements. If too expensive seek self-help online and through supplement stores, Vitamin Shoppe is a good one, and look for alternatives. I’m telling you it works!

         0 likes

  3. Lisa Johnson says:

    I love receiving my AARP magazine and reading all the great articles by members, editor and contributing writers with up to date issues and programs that affect both seniors and their children. I have worked as a nursing assistant for the past 2o years in an acute care hospital, the last 7 years on an oncology floor. Trust me, it has been the private insurance for profit industry, big pharma and medical device makers that dictate who gets what treatment and when. If people don’t have employer sponsored health insurance, veterans insurance or medicare, all of these healthcare programs that are threatened right now, we would be in worse shape. There is just way too much money to be made and way too many vested interests. AARP and the AMA are just two of those interests and quite frankly speaking, probably a little better than a “free market” approach that would not have to answer to anyone in the pursuit of profit. As a nation we eat too much crap and take too many pills and watch too much reality TV… pushed on us by those other special interests.

       1 likes

  4. Christine says:

    I just found out that I am a member of AARP. Without my consent the Moose International Club has signed up all members for 1 year at no cost to its members. Needless to say, I am very angry for I refused to sign up when I turned 50 and now 20 some years later I am now a new member. I felt that it was a scam from the start……..who in America can afford to retire at 50……those who can retire do not need AARP. It failed the “smell test”, and they proved me right. As far as the AMA is concerned it seems I read somewhere that only about 20% of Doctors are members, yet they speak for all….another money scam being pulled off……..

       3 likes

  5. Jared says:

    First I agree with all you had to say about AMA and Obama care these guys are not only destroying the very people they are recieving dues to protect they are destroying our medical rights along with them. My only quam is a general one yes capitalism used the wrong way is destructive just as socialism used the wrong way is as Europe and the rest of the world has shown. We can not lay the blame at the feet of capiitalism and believe we will see a change, instea we must lay the blame at the feet of those who have stood by and watched. These money grabbers need to be identified an dpushed out of office and those who seek rig the election system should be accounted for and light shined on them for their actions. Until the media is wiling to voice the truth to the nation we will continue on believing everything is alright. Our inevitable finacial collapase will only push people toward a government that blames capitalist and says it can change things. When teh truth is the government is the largest coorporation and the most corupt of all. We missed out on change but we must fight on.

       2 likes

  6. Frederica Huxley says:

    This is the same as the major – and many minor – cancer societies; run entirely for the benefit of the corporations behind them, and not for the sufferers of the particular disease. I am afraid that I will not allow any of these societies to emotionally wrest donations from me.

       3 likes

  7. Sharyn says:

    The last 2 paragraphs said it all. In the long run, giving our energies and voice toward reforming the Food Bill will pay off – in my dream world health insurance costs are represented by your grocery bill :)

       5 likes

  8. Patricia Stuut says:

    It’s good to know that my common-man observation that AARP seemed about nothing but selling their insurance that has kept me from buying into their market – not surprising. Maybe it was a decent organzation years ago but now it’s just another corporate power broker.

       6 likes

  9. Arline says:

    That’s exactly why we need to get the insurance companies out of our medical system and reduce our medical costs by their costs that provide no medical treatment that are added to our bills . Medical care should be a right in the US. The public doesn’t realize we pay top dollar for the services provided in the emergency room because the costs not being reimbursed to hospitals by medicare are added into the costs of everyone else’s bills. We’ve always been paying for them. That’s why it makes sense for us to include everyone including the illegals into the medical plan reducing everyone’s costs by keeping people healthy thru preventative care. But the one thing doctors need to do is treat patients with healthy diet, exercise and stop being drug pushers of medicines that have so many side effects turning us into a nation of drug addicts..

       2 likes

  10. Dr. Richard Patten says:

    Hopefully, I think the “protection racket” was between AARP and insurance industry lobbyists, more than between AARP and the Democratic administration. It was a protection racket with the Republican administration. Let’s hope for progress.

       3 likes

  11. Jacques Bakke says:

    AARP is part of the Insurance Industry—Major Corporation. Hamilton Life or some such.. I joined when I turned 50 so I could get discount of 10% on motels when I traveled a lot. That was 30 years ago–I discovered they were ultra left after a few years and told them to stick it and I left.

       0 likes

  12. Carol Neufer says:

    I decided AARP did not have my best interests at heart when they did not support government-negotiated prescription drug prices. Consequently, AARP will never receive a dime of my money. They only exist because people pay to be members.

       5 likes

  13. Kaitte says:

    And the State medical system in CO CICP, I was on it for a year after getting laid off, and still couldn’t get in to see a DR to get a prescription which I badly needed. They wanted to send me 20 miles away, when the clinic is 1 mile from my home?? I’m not prejudiced, I’m not, but when I went into the waiting area of that clinic, there were three ladies and all were pregnant. I’m 60 I can’t pregnant anymore My tax dollars go for something I can’t get help with, I almost died!!.. If it hadn’t been for the 9news Health Fair I would have.

    And knowing that most of our health benefits will not available to me when I turn 70 in ten years is not cool either. If you have a brain injury due to a fall or car accident or whatever, they will give you comfort care and that’s it. No surgery, it’s printed in the ObamaCare. Wouldn’t his grandmother have rolled over in her ashes? For shame, for shame

       2 likes

  14. AARP stopped representing us years ago..They are tottally in the tank with Obuma and the liberals..If you want an organization which will represent seniors join A M A C if enough of us do so we will take awway AARP,s ability to lobby in Washington..Its time to show Obuma that he can’t poop on us…

       2 likes

  15. Margie says:

    When AARP returned to selling insurance, I stopped being a member. The continue to try to get me to opt in, but, despite the Affordable Care Act issues, they can’t sell a product and represent consumers. It is, by definition, a conflict of interest.

    As far as the AMA, they are also the ones influencing state medical licensing boards to go after physicians who practice holistic medicine. IIRC, there was a doctor in Louisiana whose license was in danger for just this. I believe this website had an article on it. So not only do they want to keep health practitioners for getting paid for these services, they want to keep them from performing the services at all.

       2 likes

  16. Carolyn Mordecai says:

    I was always bothered by the AARP’s conflict of interest. They are a profit making organization as they pretend they represent the elderly. I am elderly and I don’t even endorse their plans. I am into Integrative medicine, homeopathy, energy medicine, Chinese medicine, supplements because I’d rather die of natural causes and would rather die healthy. My special thanks to you for giving an elderly patient a chance to express myself.

       4 likes

  17. M. Ross Baldwin says:

    I find a clear bias evident in most of the above paragraphs. Anti AMA, anti AARP, anti Affordable Healthcare Act. Admittedly each of these are imperfect at each of their originally intended functions. We may see some improvement here or there but the tendency toward ethical compromise is everywhere in our society. The AMA and the AARP are not the idealist bastions they were at their inception. But you could be helping them to see where they are falling short and how they can improve rather than taking shots at them from your own anti everything bunker. Be a positive influence, work for the good of world health. Lose your tea party self righteousness. If you are going to critique bad actors how is it that you neglect to mention the commercial healthcare insurers? These are surely among the least ethical organizations operating in the US today.

       1 likes

    • Steve says:

      The article was ’specifically’ about AARP, Obama-care & the AMA. Sorry but there was not enough space to talk about every place where ethical compromise exsists. The article explained exactly where they are falling short, as that was the point of the piece. That is also why commercial healthcare insurers were not mentioned. This sight has excoriated commercial health insurance companies in the past & in those articles they didn’t mention AARP or the AMA. Instead of pointing out the obvious, use this space to either rebut what is in the article or let us know how to solve the problems you see in what was talked about.

         2 likes

    • dez says:

      The AMA was never set up for our health. It was set up to and does control doctors, medicine and medical schools. This was engineered by John D Rockefeller who at the time was also on the way to dominating the pharmaceutical industry. Rockefeller was a mystery to me until I read this little comment by John D. “I don’t want to own anything, I just want to control everything. He is also the reason we have pasteurized milk. Its all on the internet and a whole lot more!
      Do the research.

         1 likes

  18. Mary Griswold says:

    I was a member of AARP many years ago. I don’t remember when it was but AARP Supported a program that 86% of the membership was against. I didn’t need to be hit on the head twice. I do not support AARP or any program they support. I wouldn’t have been upset if it had been only 50%, but 86% shows me that AARP only wanted more control.
    Mary

       1 likes

  19. Frank Curley says:

    Greed is the one human weakness that will destroy us – I read this article and felt betrayed. Organizations that we trust have our best interests in mind are only there to line their pockets – the spiraling costs of medical insurance is due to the greed of these organizations – they must be held reponsible – only then will be have a real affordable health care system in America.

       0 likes

  20. Mary Anne Revolinski says:

    Whoever penned this title does NOT understand the word Capitalist!!! This is Government Cronyism…Obamacare would never make it in a true free market capitalist society. Any cronyism is a result of regulations and government interference. Please re-title accurately. Sick and tired of businessmen and capitalist being painted as bad guys!

       0 likes

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