by JP Sottile [http://my.firedoglake.com/jpsottile/2013/01/13/health-insurance-is-not-healthcare/]:
companies make a simple wager with you each time you sign a policy.
They are betting that, over the life of the policy, they will pay out
less to you and your beneficiaries than you will pay them.
companies of all kinds make tidy profits on this simple wager. If they
don’t, sometimes the government will bail them out [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/09/aig-lawsuit_n_2441618.html].
way, insurance is still just a bet. And in America, we do not have a
healthcare system. We have a health insurance industry.
has been one of the most profitable sectors of the economy for well
over a decade. But costs skyrocketed and care suffered. We heard horror
stories about rationed care, denied procedures and corporate
bureaucracies run amok. Ironically, these were the horror stories we
were supposed to hear if the government took the reigns of the “best
healthcare system in the world.” [http://prospect.org/article/lessons-94]
instead of a single-payer healthcare system, we got The Affordable Care
Act—aka Obamacare. Instead of retiring the health insurance industry
and its actuarial tables and profit margins and wagers, Obama “saved”
the health insurance industry and enshrined it in perpetuity as the
“Health Insurance-Industrial Complex.” [http://newsvandal.com/2012/07/welcome-to-the-health-insurance-industrial-complex/]
the Affordable Care Act’s provisions begin to take effect, the folks in
the Complex are wasting no time doing what they can to keep their
profits tidy. Leading insurers in California are seeking increases in
premiums ranging from 20% to 26% [http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/06/business/despite-new-health-law-some-see-sharp-rise-in-premiums.html].
Regulators in Florida and Ohio have already approved increasing
premiums as much as 20%, and, since the ACA doesn’t set federal
standards, insurance companies are moving in a number of states to force
these spikes in premiums [http://reason.com/blog/2013/01/08/is-obamacare-causing-health-insurance-pr].
if you can “afford” health insurance, you have to buy it. If you
refuse, you’ll pay a penalty to the government at tax time. Some are
exempt from this mandate [http://www.cleveland.com/healthfit/index.ssf/2012/06/affordable_care_acts_mandate_d.html]. But, in effect, the ACA has guaranteed the health insurance industry a captive market.
they continue to change the terms of all those bets they’ve placed
against millions of Americans and the cost of the “best healthcare in
the world” continues to rise. When compared to other nations with some
form of single-payer system, the difference is so stark that it’s almost
obscene. It’s not just the $800 difference between an MRI in France
versus the U.S. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/post/why-an-mri-costs-1080-in-america-and-280-in-france/2011/08/25/gIQAVHztoR_blog.html], it’s almost every part of a system that has at its heart the relentless desire to turn a profit [http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2013/01/chart-of-the-day-health-care-spending-by-age-and-country/].
worse, a much-ballyhooed part of the promised “21st Century
transformation” into greater “affordability” has turned out be little
more than a profiteering scheme.
Remember the “streamlining” and
“cost savings” guaranteed from the conversion to electronic medical
records? Well, it hasn’t quite panned out [http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/11/business/electronic-records-systems-have-not-reduced-health-costs-report-says.html].
In fact, the only real beneficiaries of the conversion are companies
like General Electric that sell electronic medical records systems. Not
coincidentally, GE and other interested parties funded the key RAND
study in 2005 that both predicted $81 billion in savings for America’s
health care system and also became the driving rationale for the
profitable conversion [http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-01-21/obama-taps-ge-s-immelt-for-economy-panel-replace-volcker.html].
This type of closed system is par for the course in Washington, D.C.
Every door revolves in the nation’s only recession-proof city [http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/magazine/washingtons-economic-boom-financed-by-you.html].
Is it any surprise that the woman who wrote the Affordable Care Act is
now leaving the White House for a job with health care giant Johnson
& Johnson? Liz Fowler worked for Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) during
the drafting of the ACA and had the primary responsibility for authoring
the legislation [http://www.allgov.com/news/appointments-and-resignations/author-of-obamacare-blueprint-rewarded-with-job-at-johnson--johnson-121221?news=846548].
After its passage, she migrated to the White House to help with
implementation. Seems reasonable enough. However, it is important to
note where she was before joining the staff of Senator Baucus. Yup, you
guessed it…she was a bigwig at WellPoint, the nation’s second leading
health insurance company with nearly 54 million policyholders [http://www.lowcosthealthinsurance.com/who-are-the-top-10-health-insurance-companies-by-market-share/].
of this makes you wonder who knew whom in the breast milk-pump
industry, which is seeing a huge spike in its profits thanks to a new
coverage requirement written into the ACA [http://www.allgov.com/news/where-is-the-money-going/big-winner-in-obamacarebreast-pump-industry-130107?news=846676].
may be too early to render judgment on a law that hasn’t yet been fully
implemented, but it is not too early to determine that the profit
motive might simply be incompatible with the equitable delivery of
As matter of course, businesses try to lower costs and increase
revenue. That may be okay when they sell scissors or candlesticks, but
it seems ill-suited to deliver labor-intensive care for those who are
And as far as the health of the insurance industry,
it’s a safe bet that they’ll keep coming out on top as the Affordable
Care Act is fully implemented [http://www.marketplace.org/topics/business/health-care/health-insurance-industry-healthier-predicted].