Saturday, October 3, 2009

Grassley: Government is a "Predator"

Say what you will about the Republicans, but they sure as hell know how to stay on message, irrespective of whether that message is quasi-rational or bordering on the maniacally insane. You see, West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller had a proposal this week that would've offered a fiscally responsible public option to compete with health insurance companies, which would inevitably temper their current stranglehold on the health care system.

From The New York Times:
Mr. Rockefeller said the Congressional Budget Office had estimated that a government insurance plan could slice $50 billion from the cost of Mr. Baucus's bill, originally put at $774 billion over 10 years...

..."The public plan will be optional, "Mr. Rockefeller insisted. "It will be voluntary. It will be affordable to people who are now helpless before their insurance companies."
After Rockefeller's proposal was predictably rejected by his buddies in the Senate Finance Committee, New York Senator Chuck Schumer took his own shot, issuing a similar proposal. Naturally, that went down in flames, too.
Mr. Schumer said the public option would hold down costs because it would not have to generate profits, answer to shareholders or incur marketing expenses.
It would also save over $300 billion a year in dumb-ass administrative waste, which would cover the entire cost of a public option. Oh, and in case anyone still cares, it would offer a happy medium between getting raped by an Aetna insurance adjuster and never having to worry about filing for medical bankruptcy.

Ronald Brownstein, senior writer at the National Journal, quotes economist Len Nichols, who emphasizes the need for a public option if there's to be reform of any kind - since health insurers are, you know, greedy, profiteering bastards.
Locally dominant insurers often pay providers excessive reimbursement rates to discourage them from participating in rival insurance plans. That dissuades other insurers from entering the market, which, in turn, frees the leading insurer to raise its premiums to cover the inflated reimbursements.

"The only people who lose in that," Nichols says dryly, "are the patients."
In other words, a competing public option is both ethically and fiscally responsible, insofar as it would prevent private insurers from their business-as-usual tactic of exploiting a flawed health care system. Oh, and by the way: Duh.

So then what's the problem? Well, if you haven't already heard, there's a war on. The War on Logic:
But Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the committee, said a government insurance plan would have inherent advantages over private insurers. "Government is not a fair competitor," Mr. Grassley said. "It's a predator." He predicted that "a government plan will ultimately force private insurers out of business," reducing choices for consumers.
There you have it. Private health insurers do everything in their power to drop sick and needy individuals from their roles (by instituting a practice called rescission) - and get to vastly increase their premiums on a moment's whim - they've been known to hold open enrollment on the upper floors of non-retrofitted buildings so as to discourage elderly, handicapped, and chronically ill people from signing on, and government is the predator? Hello, my name is Charles Grassley, and I'm full of shit.

And just to review, Grassley's claiming that, if there is a public option to compete with private insurance companies, the private insurers will go out of business. Why ever might that be? Would it have anything to do with the fact that a public option would be cheaper, of equal or better quality, more efficient, more accessible, and waaaayyy less terrifying?

Sounds to me like private insurance companies are building an inferior product and either:

A. Need to get up off their collective asses and improve their product


B. Need to either step aside or diversify their brand (Aetna golf clubs, Kaiser Mouth Wash, Wellpoint Douche Bags, etc.)

Or how about the perfect synergy: A Blue Cross fast food franchise? Serve up fried chicken sandwiches and other thousand calorie bombs in the dining area, and then, replacing Playlands with on-site clinics, offer customers on-site bypass surgeries, amputations, and other invasive procedures resulting from obesity and diabetes. You can call it Blue Burger. Yummy.

What's odd about Grassley's point is that I've always been admonished by conservatives about how free and unfettered markets are the cornerstone of capitalism - the party's preferred economic dogma - and hence, the path toward economic salvation.

Until, that is, the losers are the ones who contribute piles and piles of money to your campaign coffers. Per Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone piece Sick and Wrong:
Getting movement on a public option - or any other meaningful reform - will now require the support of one of the three Republicans in the group: Grassley (who has received $2,034,000 from the health sector), [Olympia] Snowe ($756,000) or [Mike] Enzi ($627,000).

This is what the prospects for real health care reform come down to - whether one of three Republicans from tiny states with no major urban populations decides, out of the goodness of his or her cash-fattened heart, to forsake forever any contributions from the health-insurance industry.
Too bad there's no opposition party in control of 3 out of the 4 branches of government to call out the GOP on its unabashed hypocrisy and corruption. Oh, wait...

Before I leave you today, and because the Democrats won't, let Wendell Potter, former head of public relations for CIGNA, remind you once again whom the real predators are:

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Stop the Inanity. by Brock Cohen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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