As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, September 25, 2009

"They aren't friends to consumers."

Harry Reid doesn't appear to be receptive to canceling the insurance industry's anti-trust exemption:

Reid (D-Nev.), who will play a key role crafting the final Senate healthcare overhaul in the next few weeks, is excluding a proposal to repeal a loophole that exempts health insurance companies from federal antitrust laws.

Although the proposal is very popular with Democrats and liberal groups, Reid has concerns that attaching it to the healthcare legislation risks damaging prospects for an effort already facing significant hurdles.

Republicans say Reid is being calculated in a different manner, dangling the standalone bill as a way of intimidating the companies into making concessions on Obama’s broader healthcare objective. But they will have to overcome recent testimony from former Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott, who backed a broader effort to lift the exemption for the entire industry.

Many Republicans actually support the end of the anti-trust exemption because they believe it would be a vehicle to expand interstate sale of insurance and essentially deregulate the industry, which would not be to the benefit of the consumer. And Reid himself has backed a repeal of the McCarran-Ferguson Act, which gave the industry the exemption, for many years. So if he's brandishing it as a club, he doesn't appear to be doing much of a job of it.

Unfortunately, there are too many people in the halls of Congress willing to give the industry exactly what it wants - a forced market without competition from a public option. Future Congressman John Garamendi, who for eight years was California's Insurance Commissioner, explains why that is a disastrous outcome.

Some in Washington are seriously considering penalizing Americans for being unable to afford care in a marketplace that doesn't control costs. If voters in the 10th Congressional District choose me to be their representative in Congress, let me be clear. I will not vote for any bill that includes the individual mandate unless I am confident that bill offers generous subsidies for Americans struggling to make ends meet and unless that bill includes the public option to provide real competition in the health care marketplace. I regulated the insurance companies for eight years as California's State insurance Commissioner, and I know those companies well enough to know that we can trust them to put profits before people. They aren't friends to consumers.

In California in the first half of this year, according to data provided by the insurance companies to state regulators, PacifiCare denied 39.6 percent of all claims, Cigna 33 percent, Anthem Blue Cross 28 percent and Kaiser 28 percent. 45,000 people died last year in the United States because of a lack of health care coverage. These are not statistics you see in the rest of the industrialized world. Profits ahead of people, greed ahead of the general good is no way to run a health care system.

The Democrats had better figure this one out. If the public gets the sense that their representatives are being run by the insurance companies, they will take their frustrations out in next year's elections.

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