American Morning

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July 16th, 2009
03:03 PM ET

Obama pushes Congress on health care overhaul

One interesting side note about my piece for American Morning on how the battle over health care reform is getting personal. We talked to Hilda Sarkisyan whose daughter Nataline died almost two years ago due to complications with her leukemia.

After getting a bone marrow transplant, her doctors told her she needed a liver transplant to stay alive. Her insurance company denied coverage. But after the family raised a ruckus, the company reversed its decision.

Now, Sarkisyan's mother is visiting lawmakers on Capitol Hill in the hopes that her story will convince members of Congress to pass health care reform. As for the insurance company, its corporate spokesman at the time was Wendell Potter.

Two weeks ago, I sat down with Potter who is now blowing the whistle on the industry's practices. He says Sarkisyan's story was the final straw for him, prompting him to leave the insurance industry after a two decade career.

Filed under: Health • Politics
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. fitch

    there is one very important fact about health care that people aren't talking about: privatized health care means people are making a profit. that is needles money that comes out of our pockets. for example health care CEOs make up to 30 million annually. I think that's a needless expense. At the same time, any inefficiencies with government health care can be corrected.

    July 22, 2009 at 2:47 pm |
  2. Ace Barash, M.D.

    I would like to take issue with your comments on hospitals, while waiting for Barack Obama to start speaking yesterday. You said that hospitals were disincentivized to keep people well, so they could make money on readmissions. I think that’s a misguided comment. Doctors and hospitals do their best to keep patients well because that is their job. Doctors are not in the business of keeping people well, though they are constantly suggesting healthier life choices, such as stopping smoking, drinking, eating too much, using seatbelts, etc.
    The unhealthy choices that people make are more of a cultural issue, and that is the level at which these choices need to be examined. For example, the metabolic syndrome is the hot topic nowadays. But all that means is that people eat too much garbage and sit around too much. I think the government and big business are the ones making the cultural decisions. Why do people eat these huge fatty meals that are so unhealthy for them? Why don’t they have more pride, motivation, and self respect? Many are making the choices suggested by big business to maximize profits and have nothing to do with a sense of well being, in fact, quite the opposite.
    What can government do? They have already taxed cigarettes and alcohol. I think that is a good start. Could they tax flagrant food offenders, like McDonald’s and Starbucks, which serve poison to the nation, in the form of fat and calories?
    How about this: instead of simply taxing businesses for health insurance, why not give tax breaks to those businesses that provide programs toward a healthier life for the employees? For example, that engage consultants (dieticians, exercise physicologists) that get employees started in the right direction, loosing weight, doing appropriate supervised exercise daily, which could be fun as a group. There could be financial incentives, reducing the cost of insurance for those that are successful in achieving their goals: to stop smoking, eat healthy food (stop the chips and sodas) and lose weight, exercise, etc.
    Though this still doesn’t get at the malaise that rules the lives of many Americans, whose main priorities are consumerism and entertainment and have no inspiration to try to do something creative for themselves. But it may help, in encouraging people to attain goals that are known to keep them healthier and, in doing so, perhaps raise their self esteem to some extent.

    July 18, 2009 at 8:11 am |
  3. Wren

    So we are willing to spend billions to defend our country, but we are not willing to spend one cent to protect and care for the people within the country? All the defense in the world will not help when the people you are defending are dead or sick and ailing.

    When have we the people of The United States of America 'not' been taxed? I mean is it really something new to anyone? Save of course the wealthy and the corporations. Can't touch them now, for some reason we keep making them exempt. Though they have walked over the backs of the common people here in America to get where they are. We have given them a sick leeway so they can get away with it.

    I would rather be taxed for benefits that will positively affect me and others. Than just a select handful thank you very much. This is not the first time the Government has taxed the American people and it will not be the last.

    I do not hear other countries that are taxed even more for Health care carry on and wish they had our backwards system. On the contrary they will gladly pay more taxes "not to have OUR system" .

    These very selective TV ads aimed at the people to make them fear National Health Care are also not giving the whole story. But then hey where people in America could think for them selves once, they would rather be lied to and have scare tactics used. Thinking logically would require them to free their minds from a political group and or fractions.

    Never let it be said this country cares for its people. The proof is all around you, unable to go to Doctors, Er's, hospitals. They suffer at home while everyone bickers over something this country should have had a very long time ago.

    So we would have to wait in line to be seen. Whats new there? You will do it to see a band or get the latest release of something. I believe one's health comes before all. Even if it isn't mine, I see all in this country as deserving. But hey I go by the Founding Father's words, thoughts and beliefs not the code of greedy now.

    July 17, 2009 at 2:50 pm |
  4. Neal Biron

    what Ins. company was involved? How come the names of the companies are never shared? Was this a top line carrier or some rattlesnake mutual? Unfortunately there are many State insurance departments that do a very poor job of consumer protection.

    July 17, 2009 at 12:56 pm |
  5. John

    Why is it when people talk about taxing the wealthy, who can afford to pay a little more, it is called "class warfare?" When we talk about the less fortunate, working people, who don't have health coverage, it isn't class warfare? The wealthy have been fighting a war against the rest of the country for a long time, no one will admit it. The idea of a society, I thought, was supposed to have the more fortunate help those who are less fortunate.

    July 17, 2009 at 11:20 am |
  6. C. Powell

    This is a copy of the e-mail I sent to Sen Alexander and Rep. Roe, Eastern Tn.
    I have not yet received a response from either of MY representatives.

    My son who will be 30 yrs. old this year was laid off from his job in May. He has a wife and 2 very young children. Unfortunately, he lost all benefits when he was laid off and is now suffering from an abscessed molar which, if not treated, will eventually cause his death. I am watching my son suffer with no health care options available. What is he supposed to do? Greene County is among the highest unemployment rates in the state at over 14%. Should I take him to the ER when the infection gets into his system and begins to poison him? Or should I watch my son die in front of my eyes from something as curable as an abscessed molar? How can we, in good conscience, find hundreds of billions of dollars to bailout the wealthiest of corporations and financial institutions while many of us are doing without the basic necessities of life, such as healthcare?
    COUNTRY FIRST? I think not. I would like to know how you can possibly sleep at night? Perhaps you have a prescription sleep aide given to you by your Dr.

    July 17, 2009 at 9:04 am |
  7. Karen

    Why the big push for health care reform? Why does it have to be done so fast? What's the hurry? The biggest problem with rising health care costs is the insurance companies themselves. They have decided that they know more than the doctors and have the right to decide what coverage they will offer to pay for. In order to change healthcare, we don't need more government intervention but less! Take away the insurance companies right to deny coverage off the table and let doctors decide what procedures are necessary for their patients not insurance companies! I DON'T want the government to offer healthcare, all they will do is add more roadblocks and make it more difficult for companies and individuals to get healthcare coverage. It is a BAD IDEA for the government to get involved in the healthcare coverage business.

    July 17, 2009 at 8:57 am |
  8. Pat Genereux

    We need complete health care reform...the insurance industry cares only about $$$$$ and not people! I really don't care if they go under, they have made their money off the backs of hard working Americans...time for something new!

    July 17, 2009 at 8:52 am |
  9. Bernice

    Send the illegal immagrants home where it was that they belong, and this ends the abuse done to our healthcare system! They have already cost us BILLIONS of dollars and should never have happened to begin with! They should have been looking out for the best interests of the American People, but instead ...Idiot votes meant more to them! Go figure! We could easily cover all Americans if the illegal immigration problem was LEGALLY dealt with, but this is the one thing (for the people) it will not do! If they are not legal, and not born here, send them home now! Then all Americans can have good health coverage without illegals running the system into the ground!

    July 17, 2009 at 8:45 am |
  10. eliz wolfgang

    Whiners, complainers....all from the LAWMAKERS...How long are we going to keep doing this? Some lawmakers are still doing the same thing for decades. You mean to tell me that, as long as you have been lawmkers, that you have not come up with a solution. Then you need to get out of the kitchen. All I hear is, how much it is going to cost? So what!...Just do it. The only thing we have to look forward to is paying taxes and death. Raise taxes to pay for it That is the only solution. The people want health care, then they have to sacrifice something to get it. Give the people what they want. Everything is on the table. All you have to do is vote. Bipartisanship has nothing to do with it. Do what's right for the people.

    Lawmakers, i.e, Pelosi, Reid, McConnell, Boehner, Cantor.. Shut up and sit down. Same old rhetoric sis spewing from your mouths.

    July 17, 2009 at 6:59 am |
  11. Larry

    Didn't the little girl die anyway, hours after the insurance company reversed their decision?

    The insurance industry, like the banking and mortgage industry, has become pure unmitigated greed. Look at AIG, and the pig bonuses they pay their executives. You (or your company) pay top dollar in premiums and you get little to nothing in return. They'll usually find a way not to pay (like a pre-existing condition).

    If there was ever an industry that needed regulation it's the insurance agency.

    But that's why President Obama is pushing health care reform so hard. He sees the change that needs to take place. Offering a public option for American people is already bringing the insurance companies to their knees as they see their bloated profits coming to an end. The public option is offering good solid competition to insurance companies.

    I used to work for pharmaceutical companies and I know one thing for sure....people value their health above anything else, and are willing to pay for it. Insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies realize this.

    July 16, 2009 at 5:21 pm |