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Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See for full contents of our site

June 9, 2009



Richard Scheerer - Early in my work history, the manager of our personnel department came to me with a moral, ethical, and legal dilemma he was facing. Once a month, the president of the company directed this manager to provide him with a copy of the group medical claim report prepared by our plan administrator. From this report, the president could determine which employees or dependents had medical expenses and the severity of the condition involved. If the conditions had the potential of reoccurring costs, the president would indicate his dissatisfaction to the employee's superior leading to the employee being terminated or better yet, being forced to resign without unemployment benefits. Even valued employees or company officers did not escape; they would be slowly stripped of responsibilities and would never again qualify for a raise or promotion. What makes this situation so reprehensible and eye opening is that this was an insurance company that sold personal health insurance policies.

This is no longer an isolated situation as employers today continue to eliminate employees for medical reasons to reduce health care costs. The "downsizing" craze of a few years ago was a way to get rid of older long term employees and the higher expenses associated with them - salaries, longer vacations, higher health care costs, higher pension contributions, etc.

I have spent most of my career as an officer of various insurance companies and finished my career as a reinsurance intermediary. My insurance colleagues may look disdainfully upon this writing, but I strongly believe that private health insurance can not, and will not, result in the greater good for our society. I have watched the health insurance industry completely change. At one time, probably 30% of all life insurance companies and a number of casualty companies sold medical insurance. Today we are down to a handful that sell individual medical plans; probably no more that five to ten in any one state including a few national marketers.

The employer group insurance choices are not much better. Although there are a limited number of insurance companies offering group health insurance plans, there are a number of insurance companies and non-insurance administrators that provide claim services for employer self-insurance plans. Self-insured plans have become the trend in recent years as another way to control costs. Even these plans need reinsurance for excess and catastrophic losses, but here again we are down to only a few reinsurers willing to offer such coverage. Have one or two large claims and lose a reinsurer, and your plan is in real trouble.

The real problem with our system of reliance on private insurance, whether individual, group or for that matter employer self-insurance plans, is that no plan wants to pay claims. The primary goal of any private company operating under our capitalistic system is to generate as much profit as possible; as a result, the structure of our private health insurance system operates against good public health policy. Care is not the goal; profit is. The welfare our society is not considered. Greatest profit occurs by charging high premium and eliminating or restricting claims. Underwriting, pre-existing condition clauses and terminations are used to eliminate potential claims by assuring only the healthiest receive coverage. With high deductibles, coinsurance percentages, pre-certification, coverage restricted to certain providers, most plans are designed to reduce claims costs to the insurer and transfer these costs directly to the insured. Additionally, it is becoming common for plans to limit one's choice of providers and to limit treatment by requiring the provider have prior approval.

We spend 15% of our gross national product, basically twice that of most other developed countries, to insure 80-85% of our population. Are we getting twice the benefit? The answer appears to be no, as we have higher infant mortality, lower life expectancy, 50 million uninsured, and many more underinsured - the latter being the number one cause of bankruptcy. Since our system is not universal and public based, we are probably in the worst position of all developed countries to handle a epidemic or pandemic. Our employers are at a competitive disadvantage due to health care costs.

There are two insurance programs that are directly related to health care that also need discussion. First, almost all medical plans, group or individual, eliminate coverage for occupational accident and sickness. Employers are generally required to carry or furnish occupational sickness and accident coverage under mandatory worker's compensation laws. The cost of mandated workers compensation alone exceeded the wages in many third world companies; a reason in itself for outsourcing.

The second insurance program not being discussed is medical payment coverage under automobile insurance policies. This should not be confused with liability coverage. Medical coverage is immediate and does not require the assessment of liability. This is duplication of costs, but not a duplication of benefits. Injuries can be collected on only one policy.

There is only one true reform that addresses all - universal single payer health. Anything other than universal single payer will simply be a costly government band-aid to continue a broken system that is destined to fail. A universal single payer system will cover everyone. It could eliminate the need and costs of medical coverage under worker's compensation, and reduce auto insurance premiums by eliminating redundant medical coverage. Universal single payer health care is not a question of additional cost, but a reallocation of that which we already spend.

Richard Scheerer is President Intermediaries Plus


Since when do we like or care about car dealers? They are a shady lot who don't need to exist. Gasoline powered cars are not people and we shouldn't care about them. And how many of us have been screwed over by a car salesman, anyway? How many of us would dump our cars in a heartbeat if we genuinely thought we'd still be able to get around unimpeded?

If we were sensible at all, then we'd have programs set up so these dealers could learn something useful and then go work in their new field. Say, for example, a massive public transportation system with electric trains. And on top of that we'd have a safety net so that no one who loses their job has to be cast out onto the streets. Save these people, screw their jobs.

Dealers are already the beneficiaries of protectionist state laws which forbid the sale of cars by the manufacturer. - Well Basically


Now the Obama administration advocates preemptive war. Change.


What angers me about the debate on this issue is that the "defenders" of the po' folks who are raped by usurious payday loans never bother to attack the cause that so many of us have for taking those loans - keeping utilities from shutting off services and equally usurious bounced-check fees. A twenty-dollar charge on a hundred dollar loan is a bargain if it keeps your electricity on; and it's cheaper than bouncing a check. As is too often the case, the do-gooder "solution" (end payday loans) would leave us victims worse off and sitting in the cold and dark.


Reality shows are sadistic-competitive and function to passively normalize sadism and reinforce blind allegiance to the acute glorification of competition.

It might wreck equal treatment under the law to add infinite costs to reality show budgets, but it would certainly provide an opportunity for improving the quality of mass entertainment.

But mayhaps I am too optimistic -- the worse in mass entertainment is consistently replaced by the worst.


When the Hate Speech law passes Congress, Abe Foxman will be able to shut down this paper.


Why shouldn't health insurers invest in tobacco companies? As investers they aren't contributing to tobacco use, they are merely making money off its users. This helps to offset the money they lose by treating tobacco users in corporate plans where the insurers have to charge the same for every employee regardless of the individual's unhealthy habits. No one, except a smoker, sees anything wrong or hypocritical about making smokers pay more for health care, so why this uproar over collecting that money at the cash register, instead of through a payroll deduction? - Gary Fee


Unemployment is engineered by business, through government, to cow the workforce to accept lower wages. Unemployment can be got rid of at any time, simply by floating the point at which overtime rates kick in. Lowering the overtime point (hrs/wk) drives employers to hire more people rather than pay overtime rates. When employment is full, the overtime point can rise. When unemployment exists, the overtime point is lowered until the surplus labour is absorbed.

Right to work is unalienable. Society is bound to at least do no harm; there is no point in society if it doesn't help rather than hurt us - and work is vital to health, self-esteem, etc. No society has a right to withhold work.


Why all the attention for such a mediocre speech?

I'll tell you what is wrong with it: it makes the faculty look like schmucks, if that is all she got out of four years of "higher" learning.

Congrats to Ms. Lugo for not stringing together a bunch of butt-kissing cliches and sleep-walking her way thru a pre-approved performance , as per the usual grad speech.

Wow, she figures out the most important thing about surviving exposure to organized education: keep your wits about you and don't forget you can always think for yourself if you'd prefer, and she gets panned for it by a couple of dim-bulb PR readers. (of all people and places! )

Cast off your chains, for heaven's sake, if a kid can do it so can you. Lucky for the rest of us citizens somebody got churned out of the business end of one of our high schools and actually has a functioning intellect, a helping of strength of character to go with it , and a large measure of common sense , to boot No doubt, one or two schmucks in the faculty lent her a helping hand, somewhere along the way. Kudos to a gutsy grad - John A. Joslin, Detroit

It's weird to even see this speech highlighted here at ProRev. What did you see in it, that made you think it should be read more widely? I have no wish at all to target this rather childish-seeming young woman for disparagement, but I agree the speech mostly ranges from unoriginal mediocrity to, yes, outright unenlightening dreck.

I don't think it was the most incredible speech but it definitely wasn't horrible. This life or society we've enslaved ourselves to isn't that complicated but its a bitch and I think that's the speech writer's point. It's pretty down to earth and makes sense and isn't all fluffy and fake. You guys that are sipping your coffee sitting there scoffing at the speech are the losers. That's the point: find joy in your life and don't take shit so seriously. The life the faculty and the establishment have planned for us sucks. You're all gold mines and they want to deplete you, so create your joy when and however you can and, hey, for starters relax.

Now we see loadocrap's problem . She/he's a teacher which means she/he took the safe path, siding with an establishment which eats its young to preserve its fat content and is never so irked as when the young rebel against the crap she/he's digested and turned into more crap. Marlon Brando in "One-eyed Jacks","Yore a real one-eyed jack around here,Dad, but I seen the other side of yore face",


Guess the research group didn't bother to ask about New Zealand's Maori biker gangs, or the Fijian illegals; and I bet they don't have a clue about the gangs in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, both homegrown and from former Soviet bloc countries.

And just how useful are direct comparisons between homogeneous countries with tiny populations and huge nations with hundreds of millions of very diverse people?


My grandmother believed the basis of Christianity was to do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. I am assuming that applies to souls of different origins and persuasions including sexual preference.


If criminalizing an act that was legal when it was performed is an ex post facto law and therefore unconstitutional, how can a law exempting someone from prosecution ex post facto for a crime performed before the law was passed be legal?


Close, but a misquote. Letter to John Taylor (1816): "And I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies. . .


The correlation between advanced academic credentials and success as a teacher is tenuous and often inverse. Paul Blair, former center fielder for the Baltimore Orioles, couldn't get a job as a high school baseball coach (or maybe phys ed teacher) in New York State because he lacked a teaching credential. The school system is credential heavy and that's one of its problems.

I'm not supporting Klein's approach. But to the extent that he was challenging credentialism in the public schools he was starting at a good place, even if he went wrong from there. - JR


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