A few months ago, I irritated some people in my usual fashion by suggesting that the U.S. Healthcare Reform bill was a piece of industry-serving drivel that would only result in shocking premium increases, now that all Americans would be held hostage to doing business with the healthcare industry. I said:
Can’t you just see the letter you’ll be getting in a couple of years? “Dear [Insurance Company] Participant: since the government took away some of our money and stuff’s so expensive, we must raise your family’s monthly premium to $2,034. We’re sure you understand, and in any rate it’s not like you can just stop buying insurance, is it? Ha ha, ‘kaythanxbye.”
Well, who called that one?
Insurer says the increases result from fast-rising healthcare costs and other expenses resulting from new healthcare laws. The move comes less than a year after Anthem Blue Cross tried and failed to raise rates as much as 39%.
That’s a non-profit insurer. They have to get permission to raise their rates. What do you think for-profit ones are going to do?
Maybe now that it’s been a while and people have had time to reflect, we can have a more meaningful discussion about why this bill is such a disaster that even its good points can’t mitigate the harm it’s going to do. Why, after all, was the perfectly rational option of simply setting up socialized health care never on the table? Commenter Emma said on the original post:
This bill is not universal health care. It’s a bailout of the health insurance companies. That’s why the public option was never really on the table.
Tell me this: only one Republican voted for the bill. It passed without them. So how exactly did it turn out that something most Democrats favor — single payer/public option — couldn’t have been passed instead of this BS bill? Because Congress and the White House are in bed with the insurance companies.
Universal health care would be tax funded, not funded by forcing everyone to pay insurance premiums, which then lose all incentive to stay low and competitive: as long as an entire industry has hostage customers, there’s no reason to compete against each other. Instead, they should just sort of monitor one another and see what the other company’s getting away with and raise their prices accordingly. They don’t communicate this intent to one another, of course – that would be price fixing and it’s illegal. But it’s de facto price fixing, and the laws have badly needed updating on this point for a very long time now.
So much for capitalism, people. This is it. It’s over. We nationalized the banks two years ago and got nothing to show for it (read this post). That wasn’t even done properly, or you could’ve at least called it “socialist.” But what we’re doing for the healthcare industry – forcing people to make transactions they don’t want to make, or risk huge fines or jail time – doesn’t fit with any form of government. It’s just a sort of transactional slavery. Gone are the days we could vote with our dollars. From now on, if any big business in the US is failing due to its own stupidity, the taxpayers will be forced to help them out, one way or another.
Now, since I know people can’t stay on topic to save their lives, I’ll address a couple of arguments I anticipate people making.
- “I like that people are forced to buy insurance! Because if they get in a car accident, the hospital will spend so much on them and we end up paying for that!” Uh, no. County hospital doesn’t treat you for free. Yes, it’s possible that if people don’t pay their bills to public hospitals the costs end up somehow back on the taxpayers, but where in life does that not happen? Product pricing anticipates shoplifting and piracy, and forces honest consumers to pay for those losses. Worse, banks fucked the entire country all right over, and we’re paying for that to the tune of eleventy billion times more than some accident victim’s health care costs could ever sneeze at. So get your priorities straight.
- “I’m sure they won’t force anyone who really can’t afford it to pay for it!” Uh, how do you determine who can really afford it? It’s not easy to do, and since the government is incredibly incompetent when it’s not busy serving the rich and powerful, it’s notorious for getting this wrong. There are wealthy people on food stamps and collecting unemployment because they know how to work the system. Believe me, as always, there will be a lot of frugal, sensible, responsible people who really won’t be able to afford insurance premiums forced to buy them or move to another country. Canada, I hope you’re ready. If you need some tips for coping with impoverished people swarming into your country illegally (hey, if you’re forced to be an outlaw either way, might as well do something illegal that will actually put you in shouting distance of health care), call Jerry Brown.
Once again, for those in the back: I love many of the ideas in this bill. The problem is this frightening way it’s going to be funded. I have supported socialized insurance in this country since the 1980s. We need tax-funded insurance options, and we need to figure out why health care’s gotten so ludicrously expensive (adjusted for inflation, it’s risen 76% since 1970) and at least make some attempt to address that. Otherwise, the premiums will just keep going up as more and more people (lawyers, for example) find ways to siphon off part of the money stream into their own pockets.