Dan Amos, the chairman and CEO of AFLAC, thinks health care is a right, and that the United States has something to learn from Japan, where the Columbus-based company does about three-fourths of its business.
But Amos nonetheless has declared his neutrality in the American debate.
Denis O’Hayer at WABE (90.1FM) tracked Amos down at an economic forum at Emory University. Is health care, O’Hayer asked, a right that should be available to all Americans?
“I certainly hope that’s the case. I’m no politician, so I don’t know what the actual rules will be. But certainly I believe we want everybody to be covered in some form if we can find a method to get there.”
And what’s to learn from Japan?
Originally, when they came up with national health care, they had no co-pays and deductibles. It then went to 10 percent, it then went to 20 percent, it’s now to 30 percent. Those voids of 30 percent deductibles have allowed us to come in and offer additional coverage to help pick up those gaps….
“Everyone is offered some type of plan. But certainly it has increased the cost of government. They have tried to find ways to control the cost, and the way they’ve done it is to pass it on in co-pays and deductibles.”
Eliminating the ability of insurance companies to reject policyholders because of pre-existing medical conditions, the AFLAC chief agreed, is an essential ingredient in any reform package.
A local point worth noting: Amos is finance chairman for John Oxendine’s campaign for governor. And Oxendine is something less than neutral on health care reform.
On Thursday, while 700 supporters of health care reform chanted outside the state Capitol, several Republican state senators gathered inside to declare that the (still vague) plans Democrats are hatching on the topic — including calls for mandated insurance coverage — are clear violations of the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
They proposed a state constitutional amendment to bring the federal constitution to heel — unlikely to pass, since Democrats have the numbers to block any such thing in the Legislature.
Then state Sen. Judson Hill of Marietta was asked the fateful question: Does this mean Medicare, the government-run health care plan for millions of seniors, is unconstitutional?
“That’s a good question. I don’t know yet. We’ll fight that battle when it comes before us,” Hill said. Which stands in dischord with the effort Republicans in Washington have made to establish themselves as the new protectors of Medicare and the nation’s elderly.
On Thursday night, Hill sent out a clarification:
This constitutional amendment enables Georgians, who qualify, to continue to have the freedom to participate in government healthcare plans such as Medicaid, Medicare and Peachcare. We are not challenging the constitutionality of any existing government subsidized healthcare. This clarifies any comment which might imply otherwise.
Look for this move by Gwinnett Medical Center to take up heart surgery to become a major fight in the Legislature next year. Emory University and Piedmont hospitals in Atlanta are fighting it, saying it would result in increased costs.
This from the Gwinnett Post:
Rep. Clay Cox, who heads the county’s House delegation at the General Assembly, called a meeting for Sept. 14 to talk about the issue, which is on hold after two hospitals filed lawsuits to stop the proposed program at Gwinnett Medical Center.
“I think our delegation is united,” Cox said. “It is absurd that in Gwinnett, a county of 800,000, I have to drive downtown to get open-heart surgery. … It’s something that Gwinnett County is entitled to.”
Also keep in mind that Senate Rules Chairman Don Balfour (R-Snellville) is in a prime position to leverage the issue.
A New York Times book reviewer has spotted these lines on a certain ex-president in Ted Kennedy’s posthumous memoir:
Of Jimmy Carter, he writes, “He baffled many potential allies in his own party,” but “I believed then and now that he reserved a special place in his animus toward me.” He writes that his objections to Ronald Reagan’s policies are “far too vast to enumerate” but that he admired the optimism Reagan brought to the country after the Carter era.
Kennedy cited what he called President Carter’s go-slow approach to providing universal health care as his primary reason for challenging him for the 1980 Democratic nomination — an action that some said crippled Carter’s chances for re-election.
While you ponder that, consider these items found while perusing this morning’s ajc.com:
Obama will talk, but not all students will listen. State GOP wants to block health care reform. Study: Recession changes Atlanta driving habits. Reggie Eaves, 20 years and one conviction later, tries a comeback with run for Atlanta council. Atlanta HUD office building sold at foreclosure auction. Wife of McDonough police chief indicted for allegedly stealing funds.
Jim Wooten says run, Dick, run — and keep talking. Jay Bookman doesn’t think much of the split-penny deal for transportation. The multiple benefits to come if Japan buys F-22.
And from elsewhere: