Monday, June 29, 2009

94% of Nation’s Health Insurance is “Highly Concentrated”-In Other Words, is a Monopoly

When it comes to health care reform, I have never been convinced of the free market argument.  The argument says that we don’t need a public health care option because the free market will regulate private insurance companies itself.  However, we’ve had nothing but free market health insurance and we’re talking about reform, so there you go.  Also, if there was true free market choice, our employer would offer a number of options from a number of providers.  Speaking personally, and this has been the case everywhere I have worked, one company offers two or three choices.  In other words, I am locked into a health plan offered by one company, who can control who I see and where I go for care.  Isn’t a monopoly when one company controls the situation?  Take a look at what I found on Talking Points Memo today:

Defenders of the status quo on health care like to point out that a public option will destroy the system of robust free-market competition that currently exists.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), speaking earlier this month on Fox News, called President Obama's plan the "first step in destroying the best health care system the world has ever known." A public option, Shelby added, would "destroy the marketplace for health care."

But the notion that most American consumers enjoy anything like a competitive marketplace for health care is flatly false. And a study issued last month by a pro-reform group makes that strikingly clear.

The report, released by Health Care for America Now (HCAN), uses data compiled by the American Medical Association to show that 94 percent of the country's insurance markets are defined as "highly concentrated," according to Justice Department guidelines. Predictably, that's led to skyrocketing costs for patients, and monster profits for the big health insurers. Premiums have gone up over the past six years by more than 87 percent, on average, while profits at ten of the largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose 428 percent from 2000 to 2007.

Far from healthy market competition, HCAN describes the situation as "a market failure where a small number of large companies use their concentrated power to control premium levels, benefit packages, and provider payments in the markets they dominate."

So extreme is the level of consolidation, in fact, that one former top Federal Trade Commission official working with HCAN has sent a letter to the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, asking for an investigation into the health insurance marketplace. (emphasis added)

Are you surprised?  I’m not.  I’ve never had a choice of providers, only plans.  The only way real change will occur is if we have a public option.  See, the insurance companies are afraid that they’ll go out of business because they can’t compete with a fair, efficiently run public plan.  Either that, or they don’t want to spend the money to clean up their act.  Or, and this is probably the most likely, they don’t want to give up their profits on a level playing field.  The truth is, they don’t want to compete.  They have a sweet deal now and they don’t have to.  They’re certainly not going to compete with each other.  They don’t have to. 

Look, if you like your plan, then keep it.  I plan on keeping mine.  That said, I am waiting for the day when I can go see a doctor and get whatever I need done without incurring any costs.  I have paid and paid into a system and still have to pay after I get the procedure.  It’s time we got something back, like, I don’t know, a healthy America?

No comments:

Post a Comment