Recently I was discussing President Obama's healthcare plan with a conservative who opposes the plan saying it might put us on the road to a single payer system. In that discussion I learned Blue Cross / Blue Shield of North Carolina is betraying its pledge to do what it can to constrain rising health costs by funding an ad campaign opposing the President's plan.
The Blue Cross / Blue Shield Campaign To Undermine President Obama's Healthcare Plan
Quoting from The Washington Post article:
Obama has consistently maintained that a government-run plan, absent high-paid executives and the need for profits, could be a more affordable option for Americans who have trouble purchasing private insurance. The industry argues that creating a public insurance program will undermine the marketplace and eventually lead to a single-payer style system.
The article goes on to describe long delays Blue Cross contends will arise from the public plan it opposes. I have very comprehensive health insurance, and I am already faced with long delays and denial of benefits. So it looks to me like those problems do not arise from the proposed public plan, but from the existing built in incentive to cut benefits for greater profit. Blue Cross wants to continue doing in its existing plans the very things they claim we should fear about the public plan. They aren't worried about loss of benefits for their clients, they're worried about loosing their opportunity to profit from people's health misfortunes.
The Free Market Argument
The health insurance lobby contends that "free market competition" will keep healthcare costs low. Not only does this defy common sense, the facts don't support this contention. Today, we spend 17% of the GDP on healthcare in the US (anticipated to be 20% within 8 years), compared to 10.9% in Switzerland, 10.7% in Germany, 9.7% in Canada, and 9.5% in France, all of which have some form of universal healthcare. Even though our costs are nearly double their costs, our populace is substantially less healthy. The US ranks 45th in Life Expectancy, behind 9th place Switzerland, 33rd place Germany, 14th place Canada, and 8th place France. The US ranks 46th in Infant Mortality behind 16th place Switzerland, 15th place Germany, 36th place Canada, and 8th place France. Even Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than the US. Go figure?!?
Average people only have so much money to spend on essential needs, healthcare being something I think of as pretty darned essential. There are 47 million people in the US who cannot afford any health insurance at all, another 25 million are seriously under insured. 50% of all personal bankruptcies are cause by inability to pay medical expenses. Every 30 seconds someone in the US is forced to declare bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious health problem. 1.5 million families lose their homes to foreclosure every year due to unaffordable medical costs. The contention that the free market is doing a good job of controlling costs is simply preposterous!
The "I don't want the government between me and my doctor" Argument
The objective of President Obama's plan is to make healthcare available and affordable for everyone. The public plan will provide healthcare for the millions of Americans who presently have a gigantic financial barrier between them and their doctor. People who prefer having a private insurance company between them and their doctor will also have that option under President Obama's plan. People who oppose President Obama's public option say it will drive up the cost of private insurance as more people opt for the less expensive public option. That may be true. Isn't that free market competition??? Apparently the only "freedom" the health insurance industry wants in its marketplace is the freedom to exploit as many people as possible.
Conservatives argue that single payer healthcare is a form of socialism, something they find utterly unacceptable. I argue that making a profit from anyone's health misfortunes is patently immoral. These are fundamentally conflicting beliefs.
We Americans are a very diverse people, and I believe our diversity is what makes us a strong nation. That is, even though I am a proud Liberal, I believe the conservative counter to my beliefs is a good thing for America. But it is ONLY good if we all recognize that none of us will get everything we want, if we look for ways to accommodate the needs and even the wants of the people who are most different from us, if we are not only willing but proactively seeking compromise; THEN diversity is good. On the other hand, if we are proactively seeking to divide, that is bad for America! It makes us weaker, less productive, and generally a less healthy nation.
There are many people on both the left and right who recognize that compromise is not only necessary but healthy. There are also people who put their own interests ahead of everything else. I believe most large corporations are rife with that kind of self-serving cancer. The very nature of the insurance industry is highly susceptible to profit driven exploitation, and the health insurance industry is the worst of the worst. So let me be perfectly clear. I want nothing less than to see the "for-profit" health insurance industry completely abolished! I'm making this point so you can see that accepting President Obama's healthcare program is a huge compromise for me. His proposal is far too conciliatory to the health insurance industry, and as such is very dissatisfying for me.
Some conservatives disapprove of President Obama's healthcare plan because they feel it will put us on the road to a single payer system. I am not satisfied with President Obama's healthcare plan because I feel it will not bring single payer healthcare fast enough. Perhaps President Obama's healthcare system is the best possible compromise. I'm willing to compromise, are you?