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August 24, 2009

Forget Single-Payer, It'll Be Single-Sucker

By: Bernard Chazelle

I am so naive about politics Jon should not allow me to blog here until I grow up. I mean, I honestly thought the insurance industry would fight tooth and nail against health care reform. I did. I thought they'd lobby, threaten, and bribe their way to the status quo. How clueless was that, huh?!

Turns out the industry is ecstatic about reform. This past month alone, as the S&P 500 gained 5 points, the two giants, UnitedHealth and Aetna, gained about 15 points each. Why? Because, as BusinessWeek explains:

The Health Insurers Have Already Won.
As the health reform fight shifts this month from a vacationing Washington to congressional districts and local airwaves around the country, much more of the battle than most people realize is already over. The likely victors are insurance giants such as UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Aetna (AET), and WellPoint (WLP)...[I]nsurance CEOs ought to be smiling.

The plan is to get the money directly from your wallet to the insurers' Swiss accounts. The LA Times writes:

"It's a bonanza," said Robert Laszewski, a health insurance executive for 20 years
[T]he industry's reaction to early negotiations boiled down to a single word: "Hallelujah!"

I hear the CEOs put out a cool rap single. It's called "Yes, We Can!"

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at August 24, 2009 07:37 PM

A great post Bernard, very informative though not a huge surprise as you say. The whole fiasco of health reform would be a study in comedy if real people weren’t going to be hurt by this. In two separate studies the French system of health care came out number one in the world. So here we have a system in France that evidently works quite well and you would think that we wouldn’t have to re-invent a good system rather the French system could be adopted or used as a model for real reform in the U.S. so it is too bad that is not going to happen.

Posted by: Rob Payne at August 24, 2009 09:52 PM

That's a very astute post.

Maybe we should all become as crafty as corporations and figure out more ways to take their initiatives and, instead of fighting them, change them in substance but not in name. You know, lobby for pro-insurer legislation, just to help them in this difficult transition, but make sure the substance of the legislation does things to help patients.

Posted by: N E at August 24, 2009 10:37 PM

1-202-225-0100 DEMAND SINGLE PAYER.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 24, 2009 10:47 PM

lobby for pro-insurer legislation, just to help them in this difficult transition, but make sure the substance of the legislation does things to help patients.

I think that's the President's job, or at least the President's job as defined by Barack Obama.

Posted by: SteveB at August 24, 2009 10:47 PM

The surprising thing about US politicians is not that they take bribes but how CHEAP the bribes are.

Posted by: DavidByron at August 25, 2009 10:12 AM

Ok, I don't really know much about this, but single payer sounds like a gip. I want you ALL to pay for me.

Posted by: tim at August 25, 2009 11:45 AM

Tim, if we're in the same insurance pool and you become terribly ill, beyond what can be covered by your premiums, and I remain disgustingly healthy, then pay for you is exactly what I do. Also, vice versa. The overhead of managing that process into profit bites into the money available for medical care something fierce, and the medical care bites into the profit — unless the care is denied and/or people likely to fall ill are excluded from the pool.

The model doesn't work at all without a constant inflow of subsidies and constant regulatory supervision, which is what it has right now. It comes with a passively enforced mandate for job holders and job seekers: they're not at liberty to shop their labor to the best matching buyer. It's lemon socialism, with death panels selecting the victims under lemon socialism guidelines.

Posted by: Harold M at August 25, 2009 02:12 PM

Harold, I have no clue what you're talking about but let me put it this way.. I went so far to the Right I looped around to the Left. Now I can kick back while you all take care of me.

Of course you all want a bureaucracy that runs at least 1 TRILLION in the red EVERY YEAR to run all this. Makes perfect sense to me, might as well give em all your money, all the better to pamper me with.

postscript: "what it has right now" is the result of medicare and all that jazz. So yes it's lemon socialism, instituted by the same government you all want to "save the system". But please don't let that change your mind, for I do not wish to be destitute just because I do not want to take care of MYSELF.

Posted by: tim at August 25, 2009 02:37 PM

Oh, and you all better listen to my argument, because it's the same one you'll be hearing on fox news in 365 days. JUUUUUUST SAYING

Posted by: tim at August 25, 2009 02:39 PM

Bernard, it would be more accurate to say that the insurance industry remains opposed to health care reform; what they are spending so much money to help Obama push through is not reform.

tim, you dazzle me. Of course you realize that'you all pay to take care of me' is what insurance is, whether it's privately owned or publicly owned. In both cases, large numbers of people put money in the pot to bet that they will get sick, while the managers of the pot bet that they won't; if they get sick, the managers are supposed to pay up.

The difference is that in a private system, you also pay to supply the companies with profits, and support a bloated private bureaucracy that spends much more to process claims than a public system like, say, Medicare does. Also, a private, for-profit system finds it reasonable to deny coverage to many people because they are too high-risk for various reasons (such as pre-existing conditions), and to deny the claims of thousands of people for this or that piddling reason. And despite their attempts to cut costs in these ways, the private companies are still highly inefficient and ineffective.

If you can afford to pay for catastrophic health problems (or even non-catastrophic ones nowadays, thanks to the highly inefficient private system we now enjoy) without either private or public insurance, good for you. But that means you are a member of a very small minority of Americans. Maybe you should move to a tax haven somewhere; you could surely afford it.

Posted by: Duncan at August 25, 2009 08:08 PM

Looks like tim's being reading the playbook.

Posted by: rob weaver at August 25, 2009 08:59 PM

The difference is that in a private system, you also pay to supply the companies with profits, and...

...numerous other incredibly great and important points I won't repeat. Nice one, Duncan.

Posted by: John Caruso at August 25, 2009 09:17 PM

Yeah real nice. You assume that "single payer" (meaning the Federal Government I suppose) will magically fix the health care market. tee hee.

rob, who needs myths when the truth is right there? I know I come off pretty acrimonious sometimes (ok all the time) but it's only because I hate to see yall cling to this ridiculous shit that you think will solve everything and then complain when we get fucked.

Did the third paragraph of Duncan's post really try to say that private bueracracies are more inneficient that the government? Really? All your gripes are solved by (dum da da dum!) regulatory laws. Which btw are the role of the government, as opposed to trying to be the fairy godmother. Really I think there are logical fallacies in your post that I never even heard of. But of course that's par for the course for your type's emotional argumentation.

Posted by: tim at August 25, 2009 10:34 PM

how come you haven't told us about your Canadian friend or relative who hates socialized medicine? I've noticed how everybody in cyberspace who mistrusts "big government" has a friend or relative in Canada or the UK who allegedly wishes he had private sector American-style insurance.

I'm shocked you don't have one of these stories to share. How about your Uncle Pierre in Montreal? Hasn't he been waiting for an artificial hip since 1997?

Posted by: grimmy at August 26, 2009 12:37 AM

Tim talks about "logical fallacies...," and then launches right into, "your types emotional argumentation," all of which totally describes his contribution - no facts, no references, nothing except emotional misstatements. Grimmy, you're right on, the only thing missing were the Canadian and UK friends and relatives with their anecdotal stories of inadequate care (never mind they at least get care). Great example of why it is a complete waste of time to even try to reason with these people. Reason, facts, logic are not in their deck of cards. It's all about I got mine and I deserve it, fuck everybody else, all classic sociopathetic (TM) stuff. If it wasn't so sick it would be fummy (TM).

Posted by: knowdoubt at August 26, 2009 07:48 AM

You assume that "single payer" (meaning the Federal Government I suppose) will magically fix the health care market. tee hee.

Yes, "magically", that's exactly it. It's all done with fairy dust, and once we have single payer, no one will ever get sick again.

Oh, and did I mention the ponies? Because everyone gets one. Except you, tim, you get a unicorn, because you're just that special.

Posted by: SteveB at August 26, 2009 08:32 AM

>>I hear the CEOs put out a cool rap single. It's called "Yes, We Can!"

I heard it was called "Fuck Off and Die!"

Posted by: Paul Avery at August 26, 2009 12:26 PM

Since is the government so sucky, maybe we should do away with any agencies, entities, or programs not specifically required by the U.S. Constitution. We could privatize or abolish:

Social Security
Interstate Highways, including bridges (it's back to toll roads for us all)
The Air Force (no way they had airplanes back then)
The FAA and air traffic control (same deal)
The Coast Guard
The VA
The National Parks, National Forests, National Grasslands (pretty much any of that public, nature stuff)
Is the U.S. Postal Service required by the Constitution?
Fire, police, and emergency medical services (I know these are local, but they aren't Constitutional; so privatize them; this is America -- somebody should be profiting off your misery)
Dep't of Education and public schools
Federal student aid and loan programs
State colleges, universities, technical institutes

If we put some thought into it, I bet we could privatize a bunch of these, and just think of the decrease in taxes and the increase in profits to the private sector. It's almost like heaven.

Posted by: blondie at August 26, 2009 03:38 PM

As usual, Bernard, you are right on the mark.

I no longer have any trust in this Adminsitration, other than the ability Obama has of gaining some fantastic headlines.

He brings about "insurance reform" except it isn't. He ends renditions, except he doesn't.

The economy has been "fixed" and is in recovery (Although thsoe in the know remember Geithner asking that COngress raise the eleven trillion dollar debt ceiling jsut two weeks ago.)

And while the 20% totally dedicated Republican crowd believes that the "surge" in Iraq worked, so do the most ardently loyal Dems believe that this Administration is extravagantly pro-environment, and has won the battle against the collapsing economy.

It is just us "looney tunes" progressives that feel a bitter disappointment.

Posted by: Truedelphi at August 26, 2009 05:11 PM

So should we scuttle the whole thing? I'm inclined to say "yes", especially after reading this:

Moreover, under the Baucus plan, the insurance companies would only have to pay 65 percent of the cost of health care expenses for people enrolled in the mandatory plans. By comparison, today's group plans typically pay between 80 and 90 percent of costs.

So the working poor who don't fall below the government's ridiculously low "poverty line" will be forced to shell out thousands of dollars a year for high-deductible, high-co-pay "insurance." The insurance companies get 50 million new customers, in an arrangement that's guaranteed to send their profits through the roof. In short, a massive transfer of wealth from the working class to some of the richest corporations on the planet.

I wonder why the insurance mandate has gotten so little attention in the media, and from the plan's Republican opposition. Why is the right wing yammering about "death panels" and saying relatively little about a government mandate that's going to cost you thousands of dollars a year?

Posted by: SteveB at August 27, 2009 08:49 AM