Who Hijacked Our Country

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Health Insurance Industry: “Competition?!?!?!?!?!?? NOOOOO!!!!!!!”

Our Free Market Conservatives have suddenly unlearned all of their favorite slogans from the last few decades. “Competition.” “Let the marketplace sort everything out.” “A private company will ALWAYS be more efficient than a bunch of bureaucrats who can’t get fired.”

OK then, let’s put these theories to the test. Let’s have a good old-fashioned rough-and-tumble marketplace competition: the ultra-powerful multi-billion-dollar health insurance industry versus those lazy inept government bureaucrats. Let’s give consumers a choice. Isn’t that how the “Free Market” is supposed to work?

HMOs can keep doing what they're doing, and their only “competition” will be against a bunch of inefficient bumbling paper-shuffling bureaucrats. No contest. Piece of cake! Right???

Uh oh. That “thwoopft” sound you just heard was thousands of HMO executives pulling their heads in like a bunch of turtles. And now they’re all cowering in the fetal position.

If Obama’s health reform program includes a government-run insurance plan, the party’s over for HMOs. Gouging, denying coverage, dropping longtime customers like a hot potato as soon as they file a claim — up in smoke.

Of course they can’t word it that way — not in public anyway. So the health insurance industry has instructed their prostitutes in Congress to frame the issue. Spin the hell out of it. Hardworking dedicated entrepreneurs — the backbone of this great nation — will be driven out of business by our powergrabbing socialist government. They’ll have the rug pulled out from under them. The health insurance industry will be RUINED.

Grandpa Blueshield founded his company on a shoestring. He pulled himself up by his bootstraps, and after decades of backbreaking work, he turned his small family business into a great empire. And now his labor of love is about to be plundered and destroyed by faceless government bureaucrats.

Karen Ignagni, one of the health insurance industry’s most powerful lobbyists, claims that if a government-run insurance plan sets premiums “too low,” the private market will be “unable” to compete and they’ll go out of business. So what’s your point?

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said: “The bottom line is that a government-run insurance program is the first step toward a national single-payer system.” And……….?????!?!?!?!?????

If a government-run health insurance plan sets premiums and payments “too low” and doesn’t yank the rug out from under its customers, the private health insurance industry will adapt. Either that or they’ll go under. That’s the “Free Market” in action.

FedEx and UPS haven’t been driven out of business by the Post Office. There are thousands of private schools that don’t seem to be jeopardized by our public school system.

If or when a government health insurance plan gets established, private insurance companies will adapt and compete and do whatever it takes to survive. Or they’ll go the way of the Dodo and the Passenger Pigeon.

cross-posted at Bring It On!

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Blogger Zainal said...

good articles

June 7, 2009 at 8:31 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Zainal: Thanks.

June 7, 2009 at 8:35 PM  
Blogger bob said...

Kind of interesting to me, this whole argument that the right seems to have about "socialized medicine", and how that if we were to pass such a measure would suddenly be up shit creek without a paddle.

Funny because I know or have met people from New Zealand, Switzerland, the UK, and Canada. All of these countries have national healthcare. None of the people I met from there worried about health care. Additionally, the overall quality of life, especially in NZ and Switzerland was fairly high. In fact, Switzerland also has nationalized retirement plans for their citizens.

Think about it this way: If your populace is not in serious debt, can take care of themselves in retirement, is healthier and so on, then that means healthier, more productive, and more financially sound citizens who in turn contribute to an overall more stable economic situation.

Its so stupid that somehow Republicans think health care is this great evil when in fact passing a measure to make it national would be a great benefit to their voters.

June 8, 2009 at 8:57 AM  
Blogger Demeur said...

First I don't think anyone should make a profit from someone's illness.
Second we're in a very good position to study the socialized health plans of other nations to find out what works and what doesn't.

The republicans have sided with the insurance companies and HMOs for some time now. In fact it was due to Nixon legislation that HMOs were formed. Republicans always seem to look at short term profits and not the big picture i.e. that the population is aging and there is a major demographic shift. If something isn't done soon about this then it will make the banking crisis look like a picnic.

June 8, 2009 at 10:25 AM  
Anonymous Thomas said...

The real question of regulation vs. free market is one of elasticity of demand.

The lower the elasticity of demand the more a capitalist entity will abuse the sale of that product.

Imagine if drug companies had free reign to charge as much as the market would bear for insulin? Imagine if there was only one company that provided it?

June 8, 2009 at 11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sit on the board with Utah association of Health underwriters and www.BenefitsManager.net for health insurance reform. Several interesting changes took place with H.B. 188 passage earlier this year. The spirit of the bill allows private market place remedies. It essentially guarantees insurance providers a "no loss" or "no gain" over competing carriers in the insurance exchange portal which is www.UtahInsuranceExchange.info. On the surface it seems not to be attractive to participating carriers (voluntary at this point). But you have to understand the carriers goal is to cover their administration fees. That can be accomplished now. The other half of the equation is providers and their billing practices that needs to be reformed. That is on the agenda. Keep an eye on Utah because the national health care debate seems much the same ground we have already covered.

June 8, 2009 at 11:49 AM  
Anonymous JollyRoger said...

I've worked with aenough Canadians and Brits who were here for one reason or another to know that THEY far prefer their systems to ours. And it's no wonder.

I'm really sick of people dying so United Healthcare's CEO can get a billion dollar bonus. This shit has to change.

June 8, 2009 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Bob: That's what I remember from the movie "Sicko." Michael Moore interviewed lots of people in Canada, France and England, and nobody complained about not being able to choose their doctor, or waiting forever in the doctor's office, or waiting forever to get an appointment. And not one person said they'd ever want to trade their health care system for the American "free market" model.

And the whole country is definitely being dragged down by the vast numbers of sick and uninsured people.

BTW, do you have a blog? Every time I click on your link, I get that "404 Error -- this page cannot be found" message.

Demeur: I absolutely agree that one person's illness should not be a goldmine for somebody else. If somebody pays through the nose for a sports car or caviar or 18-year-old single malt Scotch, that's great. But the basic necessities should not be used as a lever for gouging people. That's just immoral.

And I agree that if this isn't fixed soon, the crisis will make the economic meltdown look like a picnic.

Thomas: Insulin is a great example. Or if there's a swine flu pandemic next year and only one company makes the vaccine and they can charge whatever the market will bear -- things could get ugly.

June 8, 2009 at 2:22 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

JR: Yes, this definitely needs to change. If Congress can't get this done this year, they could lose their momentum and all will be lost (which is what the Republicans are hoping for). We can't let this happen.

June 8, 2009 at 2:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Hilary had her hearings on Health Care reform there were so many complaints about Pre exisiting condition that all the major HMO's dropped it. Then a few years later they all quietly brought it back in. That's just what they would like, leave it up to their whims and desires - throw us a bone once in a while to make us feel better NO not again!

Canada DOES have private Insurance. As in the US, their businesses compete for talent and one way they compete is with a private plan that supplements the public plan.

As for what it supplies I don't know maybe under the public plan you can get cardiac surgery and under the private plan you can get it in the Bahama's? I dunno but there is a private insurance industry in Canada and it does well. Of course our Insurane industry can't survive on a few 100 million so I guess that's out!


June 8, 2009 at 3:37 PM  
Anonymous Bee said...

msnbc today ran a headline that was something along the lines of: we've all been getting a free ride from our employers for healthcare - are we willing to pay taxes on that income if healthcare is socialized?"

Huh? WTF?

1. no guarantees your employer, if not faced with paying health insurance premiums, will put that money in your paycheck. Odds are, for most businesses, they won't.
2. That doesn't do a thing for people who don't have any health insurance.
3. WTF??
4. WTF?? Again.
5. Huh???
6. What planet is msnbc living on lately?

Maybe that's not what the article was really about. Maybe I missed something in skimming headlines. But the headline was stupid enough, I just didn't feel the need to keep reading.

Demeur: exactly. Why not take the parts of the euro/canadian systems that work?

June 8, 2009 at 6:11 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: This is exactly why I don't trust HMOs to "discontinue" their gouging and denying coverage because of a "pre-existing condition." They'll be "nice" until Congress passes a Republican "market-based" health care package, and then they'll start gouging again with a vengeance.

I've heard that about Canada; England too I think. They have private coverage available, which apparently hasn't been driven out of business by "socialized medicine."

Bee: I think they're tossing ideas around right now, how to raise money for extended health coverage. Taxing the income value of employer-paid health benefits is one of the "possibilities." I hope it doesn't go beyond the "possibility" stage. Other ideas include taxing booze, junk food, etc. I like those ideas better.

June 8, 2009 at 7:00 PM  
Blogger Lew Scannon said...

Funny, but you never hear the Republicans grouse about their taxpayer subsidized health care.

June 8, 2009 at 7:03 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Lew: Everybody in Congress, for that matter. They're all having their doctor bills paid with our tax dollars while they're ranting about "socialized medicine."

June 8, 2009 at 7:05 PM  
Anonymous S.W. anderson said...

". . .a government-run insurance program is the first step toward a national single-payer system."

In the immortal words of George the Conqueror (gack), "Bring it on!"

Lew Scannon makes an excellent point. And, BTW, we have at least 1 million active military and veterans, plus dependents (probably more than a million), benefiting from an honest-to-goodness socialized medicine system. If that's supposed to be the worst that could happen, try taking it away from the military/retired and dependents, and see what happens.

June 8, 2009 at 9:01 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

SW: Good points about VA hospitals and veterans' coverage. Rightwingers even use the shoddy conditions at VA hospitals as a talking point. "Take a look at our VA hospitals and that's what socialized medicine will look like. Is that what you want???"

But these same people would be screaming like banshees if they lost their VA coverage or if all VA hospitals were suddenly closed.

June 9, 2009 at 10:28 AM  

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