Thursday 15 October 2009

Standing up to the insurance bullies

The AHIP insurance people who just claimed that passage of the Baucus bill would “force” insurers to raise rates sky high, have been exposed as pathetic liars. Even the accountants who wrote their report for them, admitted that if other the health reform provisions succeed, that will offset the costs they forecast – they admittedly cherry-picked which provisions to score out. Undeterred, the AHIP people are still screeching that health reform will cause seniors to lose benefits – I guess they think old people are stupid – and Blue Cross is coming out with AHIP II, another pack of lies from the industry, warning that reform will cause them to jack up rates 50 percent.

Even more appalling that the lies in the AHIP report is the overt threat. If any other industry dared to tell the country – “don’t try to regulate us or we will use our monopoly power and our bribes in the Senate to rob you even more than we are already” – they would be shut down by the Justice Department instantly. The insurance extortion was so obvious that even CNN, in the form of Wolf Blitzer, slapped around insurance spokeswoman Karen Ignani. Perhaps he did that because CNN just got caught using another insurance shill, Alex Castellanos, as an allegedly “unbiased” reporter.

And all of this has backfired. Democrats, who had to wash the bad taste out of their mouths after they were forced to defend the Baucus bill they hate against the AHIP attack, now say that the AHIP blackmail makes the public option more likely –the insurers themselves proved the need for an alternative to their services (Pelosi said as much). The AHIP threat makes the Baucus plan less likely since it will put us all at the mercy of the insurers, and it makes the trigger option look pretty silly – if they’re already promising to jack up rates, which would set off the trigger, why give them a test which we know they will fail? And the past behavior of the insurers undermined their threat anyway -- since we know that they will raise our rates whether we pass reform or not, there’s no reason not to pass it.

Now that the insurers have taken the gloves off, the Democrats have done the same. Leahy, Schumer, Conyers and even Reid are working on revoking the anti-trust exemption which the insurers have had for half a century. The entire Senate leadership is sponsoring the idea. Schumer thinks that such an amendment can pass (it wasn’t clear whether they would put it in the merged bill, which would be good, or add it afterward, which would be bad because it could be filibustered on its own). Some say it’s just a threat, but I see no reason not to follow through and pass it; a bargaining chip perhaps.

This just in – the anti-trust effort has now been joined by….Pelosi. Ouch! If Obama jumps in as well, look for some serious crap to ensue.

And the Democrats are taking other measures that will make the Republicans and the insurers shake in their boots.

First, the Democratic Senate caucus met today – a meeting in which NO ONE spoke out against the public option --and the Senators came out saying it was likely that whatever bill they wrote would get all 60 Democrats and possibly even some Republicans.

Second, Sherrod Brown came out of the meeting and pointed out that no Democrat wanted to be the guy who would go down in history as the guy who destroyed health reform for another decade or two. He essentially dared any Blue Dog to contradict him on the issue of breaking ranks. To date, no Democrat has said he will vote against the final bill or against cloture.

Third, Pelosi is offering House Blue Dogs some money for rural hospitals, to help make the House bill as strong as possible, for when the House-Senate conference meets.

Fourth, Pelosi implied that if the Blue Dogs force the public option out of the bill, the Democrats will be forced to remove the individual mandate too – which would cost the insurers billions.

Fifth, House Ways and Means just approved the measure allowing the Senate to use reconciliation (it works that way because all budget bills must start in the House). Rangel said they’re just keeping the door open for reconciliation, but a GOP Congressman said that the Democrats have pulled the trigger and it is more likely that they will use reconciliation.

Sixth, Obama is mobilizing his zillion-man army to campaign for health reform.

Seventh – and Obama is also rounding up national Republicans who support reform. Bob Dole is a biggie.

And the people in the know, know that the insurers are going to lose all this. Since the death-panel wingnut lunacy peaked out around Labor Day, the stocks of the top six insurance companies have dropped a whopping 11 percent of their value. The investors know that the insurers are going to get whacked and they can’t stop it.

And how did we get here? Simple facts:

Almost everybody will have at least one major illness in their lives.

Once you are seriously ill, you’re at the mercy of the insurers, who can cut you off at whim.

They don’t even have to give a good reason: their justifications include preexisting conditions and disqualifiers such as teenage acne, pregnancy, and being a victim of domestic violence.

They profit when they cut you off – they have an incentive to deny you the coverage you paid for already.

Almost half of personal bankruptcies in America happen to people who got sick and HAVE insurance, but they get screwed over anyway.

In many cases, if you get screwed over, you can’t even sue the insurers.

And that means that ANY of us can have our lives ruined by the insurers.

They have effective monopolies in 38 states, so many Americans have little choice but to bend over and get screwed.

Trying to fix these problems at the state level is impossible, because the insurers have already bought and paid for all the state legislators they need; the whole country is littered with all the sweetheart deals which the state capitols have given the insurers.

Without a strong NATIONAL plan which is OUTSIDE the control or interference of the insurers, we have no recourse. They will rob us blind and drive us to the poorhouse.

And as long as they have that anti-trust exemption, and no federal controls, their capacity for defrauding and screwing us over, for blackmailing us, for controlling our own Congress, will remain unchecked.

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