From "lawmakers" to "campaign contribution-whoring rubber-stamp wielders"

In an excellent, depressing article titled “Is the House Health Care Bill Better than Nothing?”, physician and Harvard Medical School senior lecturer Marcia Angell confirms my fears about the lousy health insurance bill and praises Dennis Kucinich for opposing it:

Conservative rhetoric notwithstanding, the House bill is not a “government takeover.” I wish it were. Instead, it enshrines and subsidizes the “takeover” by the investor-owned insurance industry that occurred after the failure of the Clinton reform effort in 1994. To be sure, the bill has a few good provisions (expansion of Medicaid, for example), but they are marginal. It also provides for some regulation of the industry (no denial of coverage because of pre-existing conditions, for example), but since it doesn’t regulate premiums, the industry can respond to any regulation that threatens its profits by simply raising its rates. The bill also does very little to curb the perverse incentives that lead doctors to over-treat the well-insured. And quite apart from its content, the bill is so complicated and convoluted that it would take a staggering apparatus to administer it and try to enforce its regulations.

What does the insurance industry get out of it? Tens of millions of new customers, courtesy of the mandate and taxpayer subsidies. And not just any kind of customer, but the youngest, healthiest customers — those least likely to use their insurance. The bill permits insurers to charge twice as much for older people as for younger ones. So older under-65’s will be more likely to go without insurance, even if they have to pay fines. That’s OK with the industry, since these would be among their sickest customers. (Shouldn’t age be considered a pre-existing condition?)

Insurers also won’t have to cover those younger people most likely to get sick, because they will tend to use the public option (which is not an “option” at all, but a program projected to cover only 6 million uninsured Americans). So instead of the public option providing competition for the insurance industry, as originally envisioned, it’s been turned into a dumping ground for a small number of people whom private insurers would rather not have to cover anyway…

First, health costs will continue to skyrocket, even faster than they are now, as taxpayer dollars are pumped into the private sector. The response of payers — government and employers — will be to shrink benefits and increase deductibles and co-payments. Yes, more people will have insurance, but it will cover less and less, and be more expensive to use…. [I]t does nothing to solve the problem of runaway inflation in the system.

If industry lobbyists sat down to write a bill that would transfer as much money to themselves as possible while maintaining a veneer of “reform” and helping some of the presently uninsured, this is exactly the junk legislation they would write. That’s unsurprising because most of this 2,000-page bill probably was drafted by health insurance lobbyists.

Can we retire the now invalid term “lawmakers” and instead refer to members of Congress as “campaign contribution-whoring rubber-stamp wielders”? A mouthful, for sure, but far more accurate.

The House has many real liberals whereas the Senate has virtually none, so if the House bill is this bad, I expect the final bill will be even worse than nothing.

Posted by James on Monday, November 09, 2009