I know that it sounds like I’m defending the insurance companies as if I were some sort of Republican or something, and to some degree I guess I am. I recognize that health insurance is part of the problem, but it’s only part of the problem, and all I’m asking for is a modicum of honesty in this debate on both sides. Democrats decry the Republican lies about “death panels” and “government takeover,” but Democratic arguments are not a great deal more honest themselves when they claim that “keeping health insurance companies honest” is, in and of itself, any kind of solution.
Representative Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Illinois, made that claim on Hardball Thursday evening, adding that, “They may not make such high profits and their CEO’s may have to cut back a few of their millions…” If United Health Care’s CEO Stephen Helmsley gave up his entire salary and worked gratis, UHC could reduce the premium for each of its policies by 4.6¢ per year. If they worked as a non-profit it would accomplish a bit more, reducing each policy premium by $41/year, about a 5% reduction, but that’s still a long way short of what we could reasonably call reform.
Keith Olbermann spent an entire segment based on a report from the California Nurses Association, which Rep. Maxine Waters presents as “a group of 86,000 wonderful caring nurses,” that claims that health insurance companies in that state reject a huge percentage of claims. The “research” was not done by “86,000 wonderful caring nurses,” it was done by a political group paid by the nurses union; a group which has been doing political campaigning for and against California Propositions for several years. Even in the toxic atmosphere of California initiative politics, the CNA group is notably and blatantly dishonest, so I believe absolutely nothing that they have to say.
The cost problem in our health care system lies in the profit motive, and it is not exclusive to the insurance industry. It exists to some degree at the level of physicians, and is rampant within medical service providers and drug companies, as well as in the insurance industry.
What Obama isn’t telling you is that he has already made a deal with the drug companies not to use the purchasing power of the government to negotiate lower drug prices for Medicare in return for them not using their money to advertise against reform. When Republicans determined that Medicare Part D would not negotiate lower drug prices Democrats were horrified; but now Democrats are shaping health care reform and negotiating drug prices in Medicare Part D is not part of that reform.
Democrats, in demonizing insurance companies, are taking the approach of trying to repair a system that is broken from top to bottom by destroying one part of it. A “reform” that simply makes insurance pay out more and charge less for doing so, public option or no public option, is nonsense. Medical providers and drug companies remain free to continue their pillaging and the system as a whole remains utterly unworkable.
Obama is going to make a speech next week to “clarify” this whole mess, but I don’t think he can; not if he is going to keep attacking the insurance industry and maintain the sanctity of medical providers and drug companies.