~ by Tim Burkhardt
In order to fulfill my seasonal obligation (in case I haven’t mailed out cards) I would like to offer: Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Season’s Greetings! If I could I would give everyone a Heartfelt Holiday Hug, but I can’t get to everyone in time, sorry. Hopefully, now, nobody feels left out, at least those of you who faithfully read ECHOES.
Surprisingly, it has been a very busy end of year, more so than expected. In November I mentioned that things were winding down and, except for a few random meetings, the bulk of our advocacy efforts were slated for 2011. A couple of things have crept onto the scene recently which has changed all that.
The first item is the recent deluge of advertisements from the insurance companies, that seems significantly heavier than years past, promoting their Medicare Part D (and C) products to an ever enlarging client base (Baby Boomers). I watch some TV and, of course, I’m hyper-sensitive to all ads that are senior related like glucose monitors, and scooter stores and Medicare insurance products. This deluge (of Medicare commercials) has translated into an increasingly larger volume of calls to our office with questions and requests for counseling appointments/advice. This is a good thing in that people recognize that Seven County offers a valuable service to the region as an unbiased, trusted and reliable source of information.
In checking with the folks at East Central Senior Resource Center, who also offers some insurance/Medicare counseling, they also have been inundated with an ever burgeoning volume of requests for information. It has made us scramble a bit to keep up with the demand but I feel we have been doing an excellent job at keeping up with our inquiries. Kudos on that front to Lisa for adjusting her schedule and being flexible, as well as to Shannon for professionally handling the task of fielding initial and follow up requests for information and appointments.
The second item came right out of the blue. It was the recent firing of Dr. David Feinwachs, who has been the corporate attorney for the Minnesota Hospital Association (MHA) for 30 years. The short version of why he was fired involves the unexpectedly heavy hand of the HMOs in engineering his termination from MHA. Feinwachs knows the topic of healthcare in Minnesota inside and out and he created a very revealing video that highlighted a disturbing lack of accountability in the HMO administration of state run programs, not to mention a likely significant waste of taxpayer money. As it turns out, the telltale video piece is what prompted his termination from MHA, thanks entirely to the pressure brought to bear from Minnesota HMOs collectively.
Feinwachs has never hidden the fact that he was uncomfortable with the lack of accountability with the way that HMOs were given kid-glove treatment, to put it mildly, when it had to do with fiscal responsibility for tax dollars. Most of you are aware that the biggest reason non-profit HMOs in Minnesota are so profitable (go figure) is their total control of the state healthcare programs; to the tune of $3 billion dollars per biennium. That’s $3 billion in YOUR tax dollars, by the way. In Minnesota, HMOs are allowed (?) a different set of accounting/reporting standards. There is zero transparency, none.
We should all be uncomfortable and outraged with this lack of accountability. There have been some attempts, since the system was created in 1983, to measure the fiscal soundness of giving away the state healthcare programs and the dollars that go with it, all of which have been thwarted. Nobody is blameless here, Democrats or Republicans. It was signed into law by Governor Al Quie and has survived every subsequent legislative body since then. What was created as a demonstration project has turned permanent, and quite profitable, and has never been measured since its inception. That’s a huge waste of tax dollars and a black eye to everyone in state government who has allowed this to continue unabated.
It seems that Mr. Feinwachs was doing his job in his capacity as attorney for the MN Hospital Association in making sure there was financial transparency and fiscal accountability. For his actions, he was fired. View for yourself the Feinwachs video at: http://www.vimeo.com/17156418
Oh, and by the way, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Season’s Greetings! Peace and good, affordable accessible healthcare to all… and to all a fulfilling New Year.