“Regulate the health insurance giants,” chanted the reformers.
“Stop denying coverage to sick people,” they demanded. “Stop jacking up premiums,” they cried. “Health coverage for all,” they bellowed.
It was an impressive show that the health care reform movement put on last week at a hearing before the Senate finance committee. It was especially impressive because those doing the chanting, demanding, crying and bellowing were not aggrieved outsiders, but the ultimate insiders — the health insurance giants themselves!
When the dogs begin demanding leashes, you now that something unusual is afoot.
Indeed, two things are afoot. First, the public is fed up with our country’s insurance-dominated health care system, which cares first about corporate profits and only secondarily about the health needs of America’s people. As a result, we pay more for health coverage than any other country, yet the quality of care we get ranks 37th in the world (below such countries as Malta, Morocco, Chile and Dominica).
Insurance companies maintain a massive money-sucking bureaucracy that exists essentially to say “no” to policy-holders who need approval for treatment and to say “hell no” to anyone who can’t afford the ever-escalating price for those policies. In the richest country in the history of the world, 47 million Americans are uncovered, and many millions more have “coverage” so thin that it leaves their families out in the cold for most ailments. This is why 76 percent of the people said in a March poll by the Pew Research Center that our health care system either needs “fundamental changes” or needs to be “completely rebuilt.”
Which brings us to the second factor in play: political change. Americans have been angry about the insurance-run system for years, but neither party produced results. Bill Clinton botched reform in the early ’90s, spooking Democrats so badly that, for years, they wouldn’t even attempt major reforms. George W. Bush and congressional Republicans never met an insurance company they wouldn’t hug, take money from and serve faithfully, so they’ve simply ignored the people.
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