Problem: Privatized health care. "Solution": More subsidies for privatized health care

America spends far more on health care than any other country, provides care to only a fraction of its citizens, and has generally lousy overall health outcomes.

The main culprits:

  1. Our private health insurance industry, a pure middleman which provides no beneficial product or service and profits by denying (or withdrawing) coverage to sick people
  2. Our largely privatized hospital industry, which places profit above health and uses all kinds of tricks to prevent people from knowing what they’ll be charged or even understanding their bill after treatment
  3. Our private drug companies, which price drugs in America at much higher prices than identical drugs in other nations, whose governments offer universal healthcare and negotiate steep discounts off the list prices paid only by suckers Americans

So, how have we now “reformed” health care? By cutting out the evil middlemen? Ha! We’re all now REQUIRED to buy their products. By forcing hospitals to let customers shop prices? Ha! Nope. we’re just sending them more customers without demanding they stop their anti-competitive practices. By negotiating prices with drug companies, as every other industrialized nation does? Ha! We’re just sending them new customers, too.

We need sensible health care reform. But this is less a reform than a massive giveaway to the very industries we should be reining in! We should be discussing how to re-employ all the wasteful insurance company paper pushers whose sole function was to deny coverage to sick people. Instead, health insurance profits are set to soar.

I’m thoroughly disgusted. And, while there are some good things in this soon-to-pass law, I can’t approve of any “solution” that gives so grotesquely to the very industries that have and will continue price-gouging us. Here’s how the great Glenn Greenwald puts it:

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein has an amazing post in which he trumpets what he calls the “Twilight of the Interest Groups” reflected by likely passage of the health care bill (h/t). Why are Interest Groups — once so powerful in Washington — now banished to their “twilight”? Because, says Ezra, “the Obama administration succeeded at neutralizing every single industry.” If, by “neutralizing,” Ezra means “bribing and accommodating them to such an extreme degree that they ended up affirmatively supporting a bill that lavishes them with massive benefits,” then he’s absolutely right. He himself notes what he calls the “remarkable level of industry consensus” in support of the bill: “Pharma supports the bill. Insurers are incoherent on it, but there’s not a ferocious and united campaign to kill the proposal. The American Medical Association has endorsed the Senate bill. The hospitals have endorsed the bill. Labor has endorsed the bill. The business community is split, with larger employers holding their fire.”

Indeed, PhRMA is so in favor of this bill that, over the last week, they’ve spent $6 million on an ad campaign aimed at undecided House Democrats to try to pressure them to vote for the bill. And while the most hackish Obama loyalists (echoing the administration) have been claiming that the health insurance industry is vehemently opposed to and working to defeat this bill, Ezra commendably acknowledges the reality that they have done little in that regard (Marcia Angell — Professor at Harvard Medical School and the former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine — said a few weeks ago of the health insurance industry: “What they’re fighting for is the individual mandate. And if they get that mandate [which the final bill contains], if everyone does have to buy their commercial products, then they’re going to be extremely happy with it”).

Of course health insurance lobbyists, drug company lobbyists and hospital lobbyists are all giddy over this law. It will brings them tens of millions of new customers and boost their profits. I’m enraged because they’re the problem, not the solution. American health care will, overall, improve somewhat. But we’re settling for much, much less cost savings than we need and deserve. Single payer would be much, much, much cheaper and less bureaucratic. Even a public option would be cheaper and better. Instead, we get this new “reform” that further enriches profit-crazed executives while doing nothing to stop their price-gouging of Americans, compared with citizens in every other industrialized nation.

Posted by James on Monday, March 22, 2010