Although blamed by the Obama administration for high healthcare costs linked to excess profiteering, the insurance industry has supported Affordable Care Act legislation from the very beginning. It was welcomed as the means to access a vast new taxpayer-funded market of previously uninsured Americans.
This wasn’t the first time insurers flirted with that prospect. The same temptation arose back in 1993 when the Clintons promoted a sweeping “Hillarycare” proposal.
However the infatuation faded after they realized that attached regulations ceded too much business and profitability control to government.
That’s when big health insurance went rogue. They spent millions of dollars sponsoring very effective TV commercials featuring Harry and Louise, a “typical” American husband and wife who “discovered” lots of appalling problems with the proposal. The media campaign was highly successful, and Hillarycare flat-lined off political life support.
The opportunity to build new business financed on the public dole later resurfaced with “Romneycare.” Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts played an important role in achieving its passage.
In support, the organization filed an amicus brief stating that it “remains firmly committed to the 2006 healthcare reform and the individual mandate, and believes that the closely related reforms enacted by Congress in 2010 will further advance economic and social goals.”
The Obamacare legislation which followed came with some bitter pills that the health industry found very hard to swallow. A big one called the “medical loss ratio” (MLR) requires health insurance companies to spend 80 percent of government premium dollars on actual healthcare expenditures. It also requires them to refund any unspent money back to their customers.
Insurers, along with hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, were very eager for taxpayer-subsidized individual and employer mandates so long as they didn’t cap the amount of profits they can make. In fact they had proposed enactment of individual mandate legislation even before Obama was sworn into office.
On the other hand, that pesky MLR matter was troubling enough to provoke the industry to play both ends of their powerful lobby. Digging into their deep pockets, they secretly channeled tens of millions of dollars through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for negative Obamacare advertising, while at the same time publicly stating support.
In addition to MLR, there was also something else those insurance companies didn’t like one single bit about Obamacare legislation…namely having to provide its required benefits to their own employees. And being in the insurance business, they knew exactly where to go for a medical cure.
Ten giant health insurance companies, including Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cigna, and Aetna, went to the White House emergency room and got rapid relief.
The Department of Health and Human Services granted waivers which allow them to impose cap limits on health coverage they provide to their people. Under Obamacare, companies which aren’t exempt must phase out caps on annual healthcare benefits by 2014.
They weren’t the only big insurance organizations to receive compassionate HHS waivers. “Medigap” policy providers such as the American Association of Retired People (AARP) were exempted from releasing and explaining health care payment rate increases. After all, AARP was a driving force behind getting Obamacare through Congress. They conducted a $121 million advertising campaign to push it, plus spent millions more for advocacy lobbying on Capitol Hill.
After President Obama called for $313 billion in Medicare cuts to fund his signature program, AARP’s big competitor Medicare Advantage took the big hit.
But where’s the lasting gratitude and respect? After all of the help they got from the industry, doesn’t it seem downright unappreciative to see the president, his party and their trusty liberal media sycophants repeatedly claiming that we need government to take over 20 percent of America’s economy in order to protect us from their greedy exploitation?
Now that the Obamacare roll-out clearly isn’t working quite as planned, the president knows exactly where to place blame for those cancelled policies. Again, it is due to those greedy “bad apple” insurers offering “cut rate plans” with “substandard coverage.”
None of this is producing the sort of hope and change that either the public or private insurers had wished for. As Aetna’s CEO Mark Bertolini now admits: “Our industry played a key role in advancing many of the provisions that ultimately became part of the law. But somewhere along the way politics overtook policy, and healthcare reform became health insurance reform. This shift gave rise to political rhetoric about our industry, and the people most of all.”
But after all, what did they expect? This is what happens when the private sector abandons free market principles and sells their soul to the government store. There’s a clear lesson in this, albeit a painful one, for all of us.
Larry Bell is a professor and endowed professor at the University of Houston, where he directs the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture and heads the graduate program in space architecture. He is author of “Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax,” and his professional aerospace work has been featured on the History Channel and the Discovery Channel-Canada. Read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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