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The phony Senate health care reform bill

I will limit my comments in this post since I am so thoroughly disgusted with Washington’s giveaways to special interests.  But I have to bring up health care reform and its likely non-impact on improving American’s economic situation in this time of economic insecurity.

I  have argued in the past that it is a moral question for a 21st century developed country whether it wants to extend health care insurance to all of its citizens. There are plenty of market-friendly options like Ross Douthat’s that we could have chosen. I am not pushing for so-called ‘Obamacare’ or the public option – though public healthcare insurance works fine in the countries in which I have lived.  What I want, at a minimum, is basic maintenance and emergency coverage because this reduces costs by encouraging people to visit a doctor and remain healthy. It also lowers costs by preventing the costs of the uninsured from being borne by the insured as mandated auto insurance does. In July, I said this is the true purpose of health care reform.

Now, in the 21st century, more than 230 years after our first Independence Day, isn’t it time that access to insured basic preventive and emergency health care get added to this list?

I am not saying that all American residents must have comprehensive coverage.  What I am saying is this: it is utterly deplorable that the richest nation in the world could allow millions of its own citizens and residents not to have insurance against basic health care needs. You must question the value system of a nation which allows many of its residents to be bankrupted in order to get healthy.

But, the Senate health care reform bill does not change this because, as usual, lobbyists have pressured congress to insert pro-special interest language into the bill.  The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson says:

It is symbolic of the Senate’s health-care bill that the section titled "No lifetime or annual limits" would allow insurance companies to impose annual dollar limits on medical care — meaning that patients in need of expensive cancer treatment, for example, could still be bankrupted.

Democratic health reform legislation promises everything to everyone while imposing a series of hidden burdens to make a massive new entitlement affordable, at least on paper. So its authors are in a game of beat the clock: Pass the legislation before those burdens are fully disclosed to the public.

The case of annual dollar limits — now being renegotiated after they were noticed — is instructive. In the "reformed" insurance system, every plan would be a high-end plan, requiring insurance companies to cover people who are already sick and limiting the ability to charge higher premiums for those at higher risk. To avoid going out of business or dramatically increasing premiums across the board, insurance companies want the ability to cap yearly benefits. The Senate bill included this limit, because higher premiums would require greater government subsidies to help people afford them. Cutting off cancer patients helps Congress meet its budget target.

Did you get that?  You can still be bankrupted in America by medical costs even after this bill passes.  No other major developed country allows this.  (Update: I forgot; it’s because no other country believes in freedom and individual rights.) It is a travesty and shows a let them eat cake wantonness at the core of America’s ethos.  But this is where we are.  In an effort to pass anything to ‘save Obama’s Presidency’, the Senate Democrats are going to let this toothless bill pass, insurance giveaways and all. Howard Dean had it right on ABC when he said the health care bill was a “bigger bailout for the insurance industry than AIG’. Watch that clip.

People can demagogue this issue all they want, but healthcare insurance insiders are bragging and claiming victory in e-mails. This bill does not increase economic security for Americans and it does not cut health care costs. It does gift insurance companies millions of new customers. Pathetic.

About 

Edward Harrison is the founder of Credit Writedowns and a former career diplomat, investment banker and technology executive with over twenty years of business experience. He is also a regular economic and financial commentator on BBC World News, CNBC Television, Business News Network, CBC, Fox Television and RT Television. He speaks six languages and reads another five, skills he uses to provide a more global perspective. Edward holds an MBA in Finance from Columbia University and a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College. Edward also writes a premium financial newsletter. Sign up here for a free trial.

7 Comments

  1. demandside says:

    Absolutely correct.

  2. Francois says:

    “You must question the value system of a nation which allows many of its residents to be bankrupted in order to get healthy.”

    Here is a thorough exam of this value system as it relates to health care. It was written by Maggie Mahar (Health Beat blog). Definitely worth a read: When I read it in march, I became convinced that no meaningful health care reform would come to pass. I so wish events would have proved me wrong.

    Warning: Exposed in these posts are some very unpleasant truths about who we are as a nation.

    http://www.healthbeatblog.com/2009/02/uwe-reinhardt-the-us-is-not-a-democracy-its-an-aristocracy-.html

    http://www.healthbeatblog.com/2009/02/uwe-reinhardt-the-us-is-not-a-democracy-its-an-aristocracy-part-2-.html

  3. Anonymous says:

    Well you are correct on a lot of points about corruption, that is why I am an anarchist. There is no cost-cutting measures in the bill that will fundamentally reduce costs. I found it odd that Obama would threaten insurance companies with anti-trust, yet not act on it. Considering that these monopolies are created by government regulations in the first place. Usually the government regulates for special interests, not for fair markets. I don’t think universal health insurance is necessary. Free markets can handle insurance, and indeed health insurance, or health care in general are not completely free. This bill is just going to make something that was already bad even worse.