VIDEOS: Insurance Company to Peggy Robertson: Want Coverage? Get Sterilized… and By the Way, Your Son is Too Small

Jodi Jacobson

Insurance denial continued: Now we have the case of Peggy Robertson, a woman who was denied coverage because of a prior C-section and told to get sterilized, and then her son was denied coverage for holding his breath, and for being too small.

Remember a few weeks back the story of the baby who was denied insurance coverage because he was "too big?"  As in 90th percentile on the weight and growth charts (the efficacy of which as a mother I have questioned numerous times over the years).

Well, now we have the case of Peggy Robertson, a woman who testified at a hearing last week co-sponsored by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is conducting a national campaign for health reform.

As the following series of videos shows, Peggy’s story takes us further down the rabbit hole of the insurance and health care crisis in this country, as if any of us thought there was any further to go.

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First, Peggy, who had (gasp!!!) a c-section when giving birth to one of her sons is told she can not be covered by United Health Care’s Golden Rule Insurance unless she got sterilized. In a written letter.

Because of her lack of coverage, she is unable to afford a third child.

Anyone else see the irony here? On one hand, we are in a battle to allow women to prevent pregnancy when they desire not to become pregnant, and on the other, women who want to have a child are denied coverage if they have had a c-section and told to get sterilized! “Gender discrimination” is written all over these policies with a massive Sharpie.

Peggy’s story, however, does not stop there. She is told her son can’t be insured first, because he is a "breath holder" and then a year later because he is "too small".

"We aren’t large people small people, my husband and I," says Robertson, "so of course he is small."

While these stories have remained in the shadows, at least now they are beginning to get some small amount of coverage in the mainstream media.

Perhaps the greatest shock is not that these stories are coming out and that they are absurd and demeaning on their face.  Perhaps the greatest shock is that so many stories like this are out there untold, that countless Americans trying just to get through daily life have to fight to be insured, to get health care, to get affordable coverage for normal conditions, and then fight to get reimbursed if they can get insured at all.

It is a wonder that Peggy has kept her sanity, though perhaps she knew that losing it would provide another reason for denial of insurance coverage.

I say the insurance industry as currently constructed is too sick to function and should be declared a national "pre-existing" condition of which we should rid ourselves permanently.

GOP Loves Government-Sponsored Health Care…For Themselves

Jodi Jacobson

If you are following the floor debate on C-Span over the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (PPACA) in the House of Representatives, you know that members of the new Republican majority really want to get rid of the health reform bill signed into law last year.  You also know the are really against government-sponsored health care.  Unless it covers them.

If you are in Congress today, watching the floor debate on C-Span or otherwise following the debate over the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (PPACA) in the House of Representatives, you know that the members of the new Republican majority really want to get rid of the health reform bill signed into law last year.  You also know the are really against government-sponsored health care.

Except, of course, for them. No matter what happens today, those crafty guys are keeping their own benefits, you can be sure.

Scott Keyes of ThinkProgress writes:

With the Republican legislative agenda increasingly focused on repealing health care reform, many observers are beginning to question whether GOPers in Congress will personally abide by their beliefs and take the next step of forgoing government-sponsored health insurance for themselves.

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So far, according to ThinkProgress, only seven GOP congressman, or three percent of all 242 House Republicans, have opted out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan.  In other words, 235 GOP congressmen will vote to repeal the health reform bill that insures coverage for millions of Americans currently uninsured, under-insured, or struggling with premium payments, but will go home at the end of the day safe in the knowledge that they will still receive all of the same health benefits and then some that they voted to take away from you.  And they are fully covered by the good ol’ government against which they spend most of their working days railing.

During the Congressional orientation last fall, one Republican loudly complained about having his own government-sponsored health insurance delayed approximately four weeks. But, notes Keyes, most GOPers have quietly continued to accept government-sponsored health care while loudly decrying the government’s role in helping provide health care to a segment of the American public.

ThinkProgress interviewed a few of these Congresspersons to ask them whether they plan to continue receiving those dreaded federal government health benefits, and why.

Their reasons for continuing to take government-subsidized health insurance ran the gamut, writes Keyes, “from Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL), whose justification was that he was “actually lowering” premiums for older members of Congress [I really like that one], to Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), who admitted that accepting government-sponsored health care “could be” hypocritical, but shrugged it off nonetheless.”  At least he admitted it. 

ThinkProgress compiled a video of other Republican congressmen explaining why they want to repeal health care reform for the nation but plan to keep government-subsidized health care for themselves. Watch it:

On average, writes Keyes:

congressmen receive $700 per month in taxpayer subsidies to help pay for their health insurance. Members use these subsidies to choose a health insurance plan available through a government-sponsored exchange which, among other regulations, bars discrimination based on preexisting conditions.

As Lee Fang of ThinkProgress notes, “The federal system mirrors the reforms enacted by Democrats and President Obama, which end health insurance abuses by regulating coverage through an exchange, while offering subsidies to individuals and small businesses to make coverage more affordable.”

In Haiti, Corporations Profit While People Suffer

Jordan Flaherty

One year after an earthquake devastated Haiti, much of the promised relief and reconstruction aid has not reached those most in need.  In fact, the nation's tragedy has served as an opportunity to further enrich corporate interests.

This article is cross-posted with permission from Monthly Review Magazine.

One year after an earthquake devastated Haiti, much of the promised relief and reconstruction aid has not reached those most in need.  In fact, the nation’s tragedy has served as an opportunity to further enrich corporate interests.

The details of a recent lawsuit, as reported by Business Week, highlights the ways in which contractors — including some of the same players who profited from Hurricane Katrina-related reconstruction — have continued to use their political connections to gain profits from others’ suffering, receiving contacts worth tens of millions of dollars while the Haitian people receive pennies at best.  It also demonstrates ways in which charity and development efforts have mirrored and contributed to corporate abuses.

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Lewis Lucke, a 27-year veteran of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) was named US special coordinator for relief and reconstruction after the earthquake.  He worked this job for a few months, then immediately moved to the private sector, where he could sell his contacts and connections to the highest bidder.  He quickly got a $30,000-a-month (plus bonuses) contract with the Haiti Recovery Group (HRG).

HRG had been founded by AshBritt, Inc., a Florida-based contractor who had received acres of bad press for their post-Katrina contracting.  AshBritt’s partner in HRG is Gilbert Bigio, a wealthy Haitian businessman with close ties to the Israeli military.  Bigio made a fortune during the corrupt Duvalier regime and was a supporter of the right-wing coup against Haitian president Aristide.

Although Lucke received $60,000 for two months’ work, he is suing because he says he is owed an additional $500,000 for the more than 20-million dollars in contracts he helped HRG obtain during that time.

As CorpWatch has reported, AshBritt “has enjoyed meteoric growth since it won its first big debris removal subcontract from none other than Halliburton, to help clean up after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.”  In 1999, the company also faced allegations of double billing for $765,000 from the Broward County, Florida school board for clean-up done in the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma.

AshBritt CEO Randal Perkins is a major donor to Republican causes and hired Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour’s firm, as well as former US Army Corp of Engineers official Mike Parker, as lobbyists.  As a reward for his political connections, AshBritt won 900 million dollars in Post-Katrina contracts, helping them to become the poster child for political corruption in the world of disaster profiteering, even triggering a congressional investigation focusing on their buying of influence.  MSNBC reported in early 2006 that criticism of AshBritt “can be heard in virtually every coastal community between Alabama and Texas.”

The contracts given to Bush cronies like AshBritt resulted in local and minority-owned companies losing out on reconstruction work.  As Multinational Monitor noted shortly after Katrina, “by turning the contracting process over to prime contractors like AshBritt, the Corps and FEMA have effectively privatized the enforcement of Federal Acquisition Regulations and disaster relief laws such as the Stafford Act, which require contracting officials to prioritize local businesses and give 5 percent of contracts to minority-owned businesses.  As a result . . . early reports suggest that over 90 percent of the $2 billion in initial contracts was awarded to companies based outside of the three primary affected states, and that minority businesses received just 1.5 percent of the first $1.6 billion.”

Alex Dupuy, writing in the Washington Post, reported a similar pattern in Haiti, noting that “of the more than 1,500 US contracts doled out worth $267 million, only 20, worth $4.3 million, have gone to Haitian firms.  The rest have gone to US firms, which almost exclusively use US suppliers.  Although these foreign contractors employ Haitians, mostly on a cash-for-work basis, the bulk of the money and profits are reinvested in the United States.”  The same article notes that “less than 10 percent of the $9 billion pledged by foreign donors has been delivered, and not all of that money has been spent.  Other than rebuilding the international airport and clearing the principal urban arteries of rubble, no major infrastructure rebuilding — roads, ports, housing, communications — has begun.”

The disaster profiteering exemplified by AshBritt is not just the result of quick decision-making in the midst of a crisis.  These contracts are awarded as part of a corporate agenda that sees disaster as an opportunity, a tool for furthering policies that would not be possible in other times.  Naomi Klein exposed evidence that, within 24 hours of the earthquake, the influential right-wing think tank the Heritage Foundation was already laying plans to use the disaster as an attempt at further privatization of the country’s economy.

Relief and recovery efforts, led by the US military, have also brought a further militarization of relief and criminalization of survivors.  Haiti and Katrina also served as staging grounds for increased involvement of mercenaries in reconstruction efforts.  As one Blackwater mercenary told Jeremy Scahill when he visited New Orleans in the days after Katrina, “This is a trend.  You’re going to see a lot more guys like us in these situations.”

And it’s not just corporations who have been guilty of profiting from Haitian suffering.  A recent report from the Disaster Accountability Project (DAP) describes a “significant lack of transparency in the disaster-relief/aid community,” and finds that many relief organizations have left donations for Haiti in their bank accounts, earning interest rather than helping the people of Haiti.  DAP director Ben Smilowitz notes that “the fact that nearly half of the donated dollars still sit in the bank accounts of relief and aid groups does not match the urgency of their own fundraising and marketing efforts and donors’ intentions, nor does it covey the urgency of the situation on the ground.”

Haitian poet and human rights lawyer Ezili Dantò has written,

Haiti’s poverty began with a US/Euro trade embargo after its independence, continued with the Independence Debt to France and ecclesiastical and financial colonialism.  Moreover, in more recent times, the uses of US foreign aid, as administered through USAID in Haiti, basically serves to fuel conflicts and covertly promote US corporate interests to the detriment of democracy and Haitian health, liberty, sovereignty, social justice and political freedoms.  USAID projects have been at the frontlines of orchestrating undemocratic behavior, bringing underdevelopment, coup d’etat, impunity of the Haitian Oligarchy, indefinite incarceration of dissenters, and destroying Haiti’s food sovereignty essentially promoting famine.

Since before the earthquake, Haiti has been a victim of many of those who have claimed they are there to help.  Until we address this fundamental issue of corporate profiteering masquerading as aid and development, the nation will remain mired in poverty.  And future disasters, wherever they occur, will lead to similar injustices.

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