Calhouns Can(n)ons for August 27, 09
The headline in the August 24, L.A. Times said it all: “Healthcare insurers get upper hand.” This was followed up with, “It’s a bonanza,” said Robert Laszewski, a health insurance executive for 20 years who now tracks reform legislation as president of the consulting firm Health Policy and Strategy Associates Inc.”
Lazewski is also quoted as saying that the insurers’ “reaction to early negotiations boiled down to a single word: ‘Hallelujah!”
I’ll say. At this point the health insurance companies own congress and have been remarkably adept at public outreach via various Republican Talking Points, as well as multiple press, talk radio, TV and Astroturf ad campaigns. The media blitz has apparently convinced a growing number of Americans that the government wants to kill their Grannies, install a government bureaucrat in their doctor’s office to make medical decisions for you, and that any “public option” will mean “socialized medicine,” followed by Communists taking over the country.
Gone missing from the Granny-killing fear-mongering is this telling tidbit: According to the Times story, “ . . the senate Finance Committee discussed requiring that insurers reimburse at least 76% of policyholders’ medical costs under their most affordable plans. Now the committee is considering setting that rate as low as 65%, meaning insurers would be required to cover just about two-thirds of patients’ healthcare bills.”
Translation: In general, Medicare reimburses 80%. If the insurance companies get their way – and who’s doubting that they will? – private mandatory health insurance could only cover 65% of medical costs. So there’s the perfect scam: Americans will be required to buy insurance from private companies that will make sure that their customers will pay top dollar while only receiving the lowest possible coverage, thereby shoving more and more of the financial burden back on patients and their families. And with no viable “public option” as competition, we’re back in the land of Harry & Louise’s “No Choice” choice.
In short, this is shaping up to become The Great American Love story: The American people and their elected representatives clearly love medical insurance companies so much that they will go to any lengths to keep them in business. Indeed, they appear willing to believe the most arrant nonsense so they can continue to pay more for less in order to make sure that their favorite companies will continue to receive those magnificent profits and so be able to reward their CEO’s with those breathtaking yearly salaries.
And since love is blind, that’s probably why Americans haven’t been able to bring themselves to ask these few simple questions: Exactly what do the private, for-profit insurance companies bring to the table that a not-for-profit type Medicare For All and/or Single Payer System does not? Administrative costs are far higher for private plans, and since the prime focus of the medical insurance industry isn’t to deliver quality health care, it’s to deliver profits to their stockholders, just how does that benefit the consumer? And if a not-for-profit “public option” turns out to be cheaper and/or delivers better healthcare to consumers, and some companies that can’t compete with that go out of business, why is that a bad thing? Isn’t that what “the wisdom of the marketplace” is all about?
Well, love can make people do crazy things. If millions of starry-eyed Americans refuse to take a cold shower and then start calling their Congressfolk, “The insurers are going to do quite well,” said Linda Blumberg, a health policy analyst at the nonpartisan Urban Institute, a Washington think tank. “They [the private insurance companies] are going to have this very stable pool, [us captives] they’re going to have people getting subsidies [from the taxpayers who also have to cough up for their own private policies] to help them buy coverage and . . they [the insurance companies] will be paid the full costs of the benefits that they provide – plus their administrative costs [which are about 3-5 or more times the administrative costs of Medicare for example].”
For insurance companies, it doesn’t get any better than this: Year ‘round Christmas plum pudding for them, while the American consumer will get nothing but coal in their stockings. But isn’t that sacrifice is what true love is all about?