For those who have not read it, I offer a previous posting, The Continuing Fight Over Health Care Reform as an overview of this issue. It is interesting that President Obama is now starting to refer to this issue as Health Insurance Reform. Indeed there are some commentators such as in this blog from Time, Health Insurance Reform? by Karen Tumulty who speculates on this change in semantics.
The phrase "health insurance reform" is indeed an effort to tailor his message to the concerns of people who have coverage--who are, after all, the vast majority in this country. But one challenge there is that these people--86% of them in our latest poll--are satisfied with what they have. And while you might think that in the middle of a recession, a lot of people would be concerned about losing that coverage, because it is something they get along with their jobs. Our poll found that only a surprisingly low (at least to me) 33% are.
But using the magic of 20-20 hindsight, I now believe we should have called this health insurance reform from the very beginning because the problem we have in the US with health care is first and foremost a problem with our health insurance system. Despite all of the yammering about the fear of “government run health care”, those who want reform actually want the government to tackle the problems surrounding health insurance which is shutting people out of receiving needed healthcare.
The reason behind these problems is an inherent conflict of interest associated with private health insurers. On one hand they are there to serve their policyholders by making healthcare available when needed. But more importantly, they have an obligation to their shareholders to maximize profits. This creates an incentive to restrict or even deny healthcare whenever possible. The more healthcare they can deny, the more profit they make. This is why so much time and money is spent by private insurance companies to try and deny claims from the present policyholders as much as possible along with avoiding future policyholders with preexisting conditions who would be a drain on company profits. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in health insurance companies making huge profits while many sick people were being shut out of getting needed healthcare.
So why not solve the problem directly and replace the private insurers with a public insurer (a.k.a. 'single payer’) like what we presently do with Medicare for those over 65? The answer is that the private insurance companies are politically very powerful and would undoubtedly fight to the death to avoid their demise — a fight that few of our politicians have any stomach for.
But how do the Democrats try to make progress in health insurance reform without going to war with the insurance industry? Essentially, they had to make a deal with the devil. In exchange for keeping the health insurance companies intact in any proposed health insurance reform, the Democrats would get to propose an alternative “public option” to provide a way to keep the private insurers honest.
And indeed President Obama kept his part of the deal. When seeking input on health insurance reform, those who were for a public single payer insurance system that would eliminate the insurance companies were specifically excluded from the conversation.
But when you make a deal with the devil, you take the chance of getting burned! The insurance companies have apparently decided that they like the idea of not having public insurance competition and don’t want that gravy train to end. So instead of cooperating with the proposed public option, they are fighting it with a guerilla tactics like providing talking points for Republican opposition through a so-called "nonpartisan" source of information in the form of the Lewin Group.
The Lewin Group, exposed by the Washington Post as a subsidiary of an insurance company, has been widely cited as an objective, nonpartisan source of information by those opposed to the creation of a public health insurance option.
After months of debate in Washington and the usual wheeling and dealing between the politicians and lobbyists, Senator Specter is coming home for a month. Now it’s your turn to talk with him. Don’t miss the chance.Bring your own signs! Prepare to ask questions!
Lack of health insurance causes roughly 18,000 unnecessary deaths every year in the United States. Although America leads the world in spending on health care, it is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not ensure that all citizens have coverage.