Monday 12 October 2009

Health insurers take off the mask and threaten…you

Insurers are making no effort whatsoever to dial back their worst excesses in the ramp-up to the big reform votes. Pregnancy, domestic violence, fat babies as disqualifying preexisting conditions, jacking up rates….These guys seem to be positive they can stop reform. Makes you wonder.

But their already-discredited AHIP report is likely to backfire. With this report, drafted at the behest of the insurance industry, they have effectively threatened all of America that even if the reform bill contains a mandate which will provide them with millions of new customers, they will still jack up all our premiums. This gives a strong impetus to setting up a public option, to save American families a ton of money. It also makes Pelosi’s windfall profits tax more likely to pass. Some are also proposing a cap on premiums. Even Republican leaders are warning their members not to campaign on the report if they have also taken a ton of insurance money for their campaigns. Watch the Blue Dog Senators on this – extortionists themelves, they know blackmail when they see it.

Meanwhile the CBO report has dealt a serious blow to the idea of health care coops; the only vote it adds to the tally is possibly Conrad’s.

The trigger option is less unpopular than the coop option, but the trigger won’t work either – Snowe tried, and she overplayed her hand. The Democrats seemingly have already conceded that many of the major provisions of the health reform package won’t go into effect for years, and they don’t want the trigger nonsense to delay things even more. They’ve conceded enough and they know it.

So Senators are back at work urgently seeking a public-option formula that can attain 60 votes for cloture, if not for the actual bill; then when Reid merges the HELP and Finance bills, they will toss out the Baucus coop plan in favour of the public option.

As the coop and trigger options slowly expire, the public option opt-out formula, the most promising of all the compromise proposals, is gaining momentum. White House polling possibly discovered that opt-out will sell, liberals will accept it, Krugman likes it, and Carper may support it; probably Lieberman too.

Obama has rounded up more Republican supporters of health reform, Chuck Hagel and Bush’s HHS Secretary, Louis Sullivan. However, Bill Nelson has said no to opt-out, and likes the trigger better. How about both? Or at least cloture? He’s undoubtedly worried that Florida could opt out. I think a lot of these Blue Dog knuckleheads are dragging this out forever, because once they commit and the Senate votes, they will deservedly become relative non-entities again.

And more justification for urgency: a new Consumers Union report says Americans are skipping doctor visits, procedures, tests, prescriptions, and even taking expired drugs to save money; a quarter of us have been unable to pay for medical bills or prescriptions.

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