Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Congressional Failures and Health Reform

“so we cheated and we lied and we tested
and we never failed to fail – it was the easiest thing to do”

- Stephen Stills

It’s hard to avoid the spin being put on health care reform by all sides. The left would have us believe that they have succeeded in creating a utopia where all citizens will have health insurance, people won’t be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions and costs to individuals and families will be controlled. Meanwhile, the right would have us think that “Obama-care” will mean higher taxes on families to pay for additional government spending, and massive expenses for businesses that will now be required to provide insurance benefits for all employees.

So who’s spin is correct – or at least, closer to the truth? Actually, I don’t buy either side’s arguments as I consider the bills that are about to be reconciled as a complete failure for average citizens.

First of all, the major failing of the current bills is that they don’t address cost control by creating a public option that would compete directly with private insurers. Without this competition, insurance companies can and will still increase premiums. In fact, since insurers will be “forced” to take all comers and not limit their “risk pool” by taking on only those least likely to need their services, they will, without a doubt, increase premiums from day one to reflect their added costs. They are for-profit entities after all, and their first priority is to shareholders.

Secondly, I believe that (as I have discussed here last March) the insurance industry has as much exposure to toxic debt as banks do, but Fannie and Freddy aren’t shoring up their balance sheets ala the banks, thus insurers face a pending financial disaster as their investments tank. But after the TARP fiasco, absolute public outrage would be unavoidable if Congress proposed a bailout of insurers. This new “reform bill” has become a publicly palatable way to support the insurance industry by mandating that all citizens buy coverage. Translation: 20% of the population not currently spending money on insurance policies is about to – viola, problem solved.

Finally, if anyone thinks that the pharmaceutical manufacturers and insurance industry don’t love this bill, they should take a peek at the money spent lobbying for it. Politico has reported that:

“A closer look at some of the health care lobbying expenditures shows just how high the stakes are. PhRMA, a top trade group for drug makers, spent as much as it did in all of 2008 — $20.2 million — during the first nine months of 2009. America’s Health Insurance Plans is also on pace to outspend its 2008 lobbying budget, spending $6.3 million during the first nine months of this year."

And these numbers are from only 2 individual special interest groups. There are many more who have spent millions in addition to these sums. Think they didn’t get it the way they wanted it? You’d better think again.

So what’s the bottom line? For me it’s simple: the beneficiaries of the supposed health care reform effort will be the same ones who need to be regulated and better controlled – insurers and drug manufacturers. Will there be benefit for citizens? Maybe. But since we don’t pay as well as the special interest groups, it’s likely that our benefit will be much less than what Congress is about to hand over to insurance and drug companies. And why shouldn’t our benefit be less? After all people get what they pay for.

No comments:

Post a Comment