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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Health Care Reform: Single-Payer or Not, Let's Ban Insurance Companies

The New York Times points out a problem with the medical-industrial complex's proposal to cut its increases in revenues by $2 trillion if Washington will just please, please, please not create a public health plan that would put them out of business: antitrust laws:

Antitrust lawyers say doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and drug makers will be running huge legal risks if they get together and agree on a strategy to hold down prices and reduce the growth of health spending.

Robert F. Leibenluft, a former official at the Federal Trade Commission, said, “Any agreement among competitors with regard to prices or price increases — even if they set a maximum — would raise legal concerns” [Robert Pear, "Antitrust Laws a Hurdle to Health Care Overhaul," New York Times, 2009.05.26].

Oops. Sounds like all the more reason Congress needs to reject the medical-industrial complex's false promises and either include a public plan in this year's health care reform to give the profiteers some real competition or just go whole hog and create the kind of single-payer system that keeps costs down worldwide. Private insurers are already stifling competition and making it harder for doctors to get paid than the government does. Instead of risking even worse profiteering collusion from the big insurers, let's turn to a more rational, public not-for-profit system, just like we do with other vital services like schools, police, and fire departments.

7 comments:

  1. So are you suggesting banning all insurance companies (including crop, car, home, life, etc.), or just the healthcare part?

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  2. Oops! Lack of specificity on my part, K. My apologies! I'm talking about just the health care insurers -- I'll leave your dad plenty of business. :-)

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  3. We really ought to take a shot at doing away with more than just the ripoffs made by the health insurance industry.

    The required part of vehicle driver insurance should come out of a fuel tax so that anybody on the highways has the minimum state required insurance. Drivers wanting better coverage than the minimum should deal with private insurers. This would remove part of the insurance industries sledge hammer over drivers heads since it is now illegal to drive without such insurance, it can be dangerous to drop insurance from one company in the hope of getting another policy elsewhere.

    And crop insurance should be replaced by tax changes which allow moving income taxfree to personal insurance accounts for crops in good years to balance income in bad years.

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  4. I've been in favor of a health-care plan of the sort Dennis Kucinich advocates; but that support has begun to erode like a sand castle in a hurricane now that they've started to talk about imposing a value-added tax (VAT) to pay for it.

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  5. I want the system, Stan, and I want it paid for, but a straight-up health premium paid directly to the government would be a lot better than a national VAT or some other tax increase that would keep us from seeing exactly how much we pay out of pocket for public health.

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  6. Cory, I'd be okay with removing the cap on income for which the Social Security payroll tax is levied, currently at around a hundred thousand dollars. I believe that idea was floated by Edward Kennedy some time ago.

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  7. There are lots of funding possibilities. Politically, I like the direct premium, since people could get the clearest picture possible of the money they save over their current private premiums.

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