We already disected the way the health insurance industry lied and weaseled their way from Friend of the Oppressed Consumer to "Who, Us?" when Obama tried to pin them down. Now maybe we ought, as Robert Borosage suggests, kind of spend a little time looking at what these paragons of corporate virtue have actually been up too. (Via Avedon Carol) Hint: "Providing high quality health care" is NOT involved.
The HCAN report shows that after 400 mergers involving health insurers over the last 13 years, concentration has gone up in local markets across the country. The single largest provider of small group coverage (for small businesses, for example) controlled a median market share of 47 percent in 2008. The American Medical Association says 94 percent of insurance markets in the U.S. are highly concentrated.
The result, of course, is soaring prices—with premiums up, on average, more than 87 percent over the past six years. Profits at 10 of the country's largest publicly traded health insurance companies in 2007 rose from $2.4 to 12.9 billion (428 percent) from 2000 to 2007. The CEOs of these companies in 2007 alone collected an average compensation of $11.9 million each. Nice work if you can get it.
Gosh. It would appear that all they care about is...the $$$. I'm shocked. Who could have predicted that the healthcare industry would move toward monopoly control by a few huge companies the way every other industry (banking, communications, energy, etc etc etc) has been doing for the past 30 years? Who could possibly have imagined that the Biggies would take advantage of their size to wipe out smaller competitors, take over the market, and promptly raise the price of health care through the roof while executives and investors took the cream off the top and left consumers to fend for themselves (like the cable companies, banks, credit card companies, etc all did)?
That didn’t take long. Less than two weeks have passed since much of the medical-industrial complex made a big show of working with President Obama on health care reform — and the double-crossing is already well under way. Indeed, it’s now clear that even as they met with the president, pretending to be cooperative, insurers were gearing up to play the same destructive role they did the last time health reform was on the agenda.
On Monday, just a week after the White House photo-op, The Washington Post reported that Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina was preparing to run a series of ads attacking the public option. The planning for this ad campaign must have begun quite some time ago.
The Post has the storyboards for the ads, and they read just like the infamous Harry and Louise ads that helped kill health care reform in 1993. Troubled Americans are shown being denied their choice of doctor, or forced to wait months for appointments, by faceless government bureaucrats. It’s a scary image that might make some sense if private health insurance — which these days comes primarily via HMOs — offered all of us free choice of doctors, with no wait for medical procedures. But my health plan isn’t like that. Is yours?
“We can do a lot better than a government-run health care system,” says a voice-over in one of the ads. To which the obvious response is, if that’s true, why don’t you? Why deny Americans the chance to reject government insurance if it’s really that bad?
It's a good question and we know what the answer is: we wouldn't because it isn't and the Private Money Pot that is for-profit healthcare in this benighted country would go pfffft! practically overnight.
The thing is, this ain't 1993. We've been there, done that, and we now know what we should have known all along: the insurance companies are as crooked as a dog's hind leg and they lie like a Republican caught coming out of a whorehouse. This Harry & Louise BS ain't gonna fly this time. In fact, if they really do try it, about all those ads are going to provoke is a wry laugh and a boot thrown at the teevee screen.
That's OK. Let them piss everybody off. They've ripped us off for decades and then they're going to try to convince us they haven't? Call your Senator and let him know it won't work. (If Chris Bowers is right, there's no point to calling your Rep.)