A tip of the hat to the Center for American Progress, which noticed that health insurance company stocks shot up today. Here's why: the Senate's new national health reform proposal eliminates any publicly financed alternative to their for-profit model, and turns government into the corporate enforcer. We'd all have to buy whatever the insurers want to sell, at whatever price they want to charge, with no alternative. Whoopee! said Wall Street.
Here's a great quote from insurance executive-turned whistleblower Wendell Potter on what it all means:
“Every time there is an article in a big newspaper questioning the
success of progressives in getting a good bill passed, the stock will
go up... The analysts/investors don’t think any good reform is going to
happen, or anything that would happen that would adversely affect the
Consumer Watchdog continues to fight to keep that prediction from coming true. The reasons to stop insurance companies from killing real competition--like opening Medicare to more of us--are chokingly evident in testimony today before the House Domestic Policy Subcommittee.
The testimony linked above has the stories we've come to know too well: insurance companies assure through targeted delay and denial that a patient dies rather than get the effective, but expensive, treatment that their doctors believe will save them.
But the testimony that really struck me was the success story related by Los Angeles public school teacher Mark Gendernalik. His infant daughter finally got the treatment she needed for a rare neurological condition that caused increasingly dangerous seizures--but only after a pitched battle as their daughter's condition worsened. Their HMO, Pacificare (a subsidiary of United HealthCare) and its medical group were clearly unequipped to treat her, even to diagnose her without long delay. But its bureaucracy used a combination of delay, denial and ineptitude to block the family every step of the way--from proper diagnosis to gaining access to the one drug that could treat their daughter, even to providing the right address for a clinic.
The parents' education, persistence and their knowledge of how they could use state regulators to fight back finally got their daughter what she needed. But the weeks of delay, while the infant suffered, shocked and demoralized the doctors trying to treat her. How many families would have the arsenal of knowledge, the time, the savvy and the sympathetic doctors to claw their way to victory, while suffering one hang-up after another from insurance clerks?
Is this what we mean by better health care? It's what we're going to get if President Obama and Congress don't reject what's on the table in the Senate today. In fact, things will get worse, because today's proposal would weaken the power of states like California to intervene on behalf of patients.