SYNDICATED COLUMN: Healthcare Insurance Pigs Soaking Americans With Secret 20%-40% Rate Increases on Obamacare

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This is what happens when you trust free markets.

You probably heard that the Supreme Court rejected the latest legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, a.k.a. The Great Transfer of Taxpayer Dollars to Scumbag Health Insurance Companies. That news broke during a major news day.

What you likely missed, because it came out on July 3rd when everyone was driving to the beach or flying somewhere fun for their Independence Day weekend getaways instead of paying attention to the news, was that the ACA is tanking. That’s why you have me: to read depressing tidbits about America’s decline, and to annoy Obamabots with another I-told-you-so.

When Obama resurrected 1993’s benighted Hillarycare scheme, I warned that there were two major problems with this convoluted hybrid of government-managed healthcare and for-profit healthcare.

First, the Affordable Care Act kept the insurance companies in business. Aetna, United Healthcare and the other big insurers are a huge drain on the system, sucking out billions in profits and driving up costs. Profitmaking has no place in healthcare, which is a basic human right, like air and water. Air and water are free; healthcare should be free too. But that’s the opposite of what drives health insurers: they want to give you as little care as possible while charging you as much as possible.

Second, the ACA diminished Americans’ zeal for socialized medicine, the standard in the developed world. “In legislation no bread is often better than half a loaf,” Robert La Follette, the Wisconsin Progressive of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, pointed out. “Half a loaf, as a rule, dulls the appetite, and destroys the keenness of interest in attaining the full loaf.” I wrote last year: “In 2007, before Obama and his ACA came along, 54% of Americans favored single-payer. Now, thanks to a system that’s better than nothing but not nearly good enough, it’s down to 37%. Hillary Clinton is endorsing Obamacare, and has officially come out against single-payer.”

Now that the public has had a chance to use and pay for Obamacare, support for single-payer is back up to 50%.

Back to that story that broke on the deadest news day of the year. From The New York Times: “Health insurance companies around the country are seeking rate increases of 20% to 40% or more, saying their new customers under the Affordable Care Act turned out to be sicker than expected…Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans — market leaders in many states — are seeking rate increases that average 23 percent in Illinois, 25 percent in North Carolina, 31 percent in Oklahoma, 36 percent in Tennessee and 54 percent in Minnesota, according to documents posted online by the federal government and state insurance commissioners and interviews with insurance executives.”

Did your paycheck go up 20%, much less 40%, in the last year? I didn’t think so.

The proper reaction to this disgusting move — remember, we’re talking about a for-profit corporate sector that rakes in billions of dollars a month and pays its CEOs millions of dollars a year — is to line up the executives responsible against a wall and shoot them full of holes, then deny the healthcare claims of any who survive just because, as the rest of us routinely experience.

Since that would be illegal, however, the second-best approach should be to shame the bastards relentlessly on social media, until they’re forced to go join ISIS because people would subject them to Two Minute Hates wherever they go. (Not to say that ISIS, which provides free healthcare, would want these human turds either.)

This is where one naturally turns to political leadership. Surely the President of the United States, a.k.a. He For Whom Obamacare Is Named, will crack down on these insurance pirates?

Not so much. Obama “said that consumers should put pressure on state insurance regulators to scrutinize the proposed rate increases. If commissioners do their job and actively review rates, he said, ‘my expectation is that they’ll come in significantly lower than what’s being requested.'”

No doubt the healthcare industry itself, which rakes in billions each year from their new involuntary customers, hears our anger.

Not so much. Marinan Williams, CEO of the Scott & White Health Plan in Texas, which applied for a 32% rate hike, says: “Over the next three years, I hope, rates will start to stabilize.” How about we “stabilize” her salary at 32% less than she gets now?

How’s your interest in the “full loaf” — single-payer socialized medicine — now?

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the book “Snowden,” the first biography of NSA whistleblower Edward J. Snowden. It is in graphic novel form, and will publish August 18th. You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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22 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Healthcare Insurance Pigs Soaking Americans With Secret 20%-40% Rate Increases on Obamacare

  1. Simplest possible socialized medicine law for the United States:

    Open the Veterans Health Administration to everybody.

    Put the Surgeon General in charge of it.

    Done.

    • All the vets I know used to love the VA system. But that was back before the Republicans (“capitalists”) decided to declare war without bothering to fund it.

      Funny how they’re the first ones to talk about making sure you can afford to pay for the things you want.

    • Ted,

      Where did you study economics?

      Socialism has worked so well in Great Britain, Cuba, Venezuela and elsewhere that it’s bound to be successful here.

  2. Ted,

    Your comment “Air and water are free; healthcare should be free too.”

    No. Healthcare should not be free. In the same way that education should not be free. Teachers, doctors, nurses, cafeteria staff, all have to be paid. That costs money. Let’s not gloss over it or misrepresent, even in shorthand among friends. Healthcare (or education) strictly on a cost-benefit analysis is a good thing because it reduces overall costs. We should all be very matter-of-fact about it. “Yes, you’re taxes are used to provide healthcare to drug addicts. And the neighbor down the street with the two kids. And that old man with the stupid little yapping dog. And for you, you stupid bastard.”

    Everyone should have it pointed out that the “freeloaders” be they students getting an education without being driven into the poorhouse or sick people being made well enough to return to work, have a tendency to head toward greater contributions in the long run.

    There’s nothing humanitarian about this: it’s just more practical in the long run. Sure, you’re going to have people who still eat at McDonald’s four times a day. Just like you’re going to have students whose sole interests are drinking and sex.

    • Actually, it depends upon one’s definition of “free”; air is free, but the water bill still needs to be paid. (So, I don’t follow your logic, Ted.)

      Healthcare should be “free” to the consumer, instead of driving him/her into bankruptcy. I think that’s Ted’s point: the insurance companies are still making a profit, but they want that profit increased. Healthcare needs to be single-payer and the profit motive should be removed from the equation.

      • Right. I get Ted’s point; I don’t disagree with him. However, HOW the conversation is framed often determines WHO wins the debate. By starting with “free” the debate is left open for the hijacking. “Oh, and who pays for free? I do. You thieving lazy good for nothing. Why don’t you get a job?”

  3. Ted

    First up against the wall when the revolution comes, I have hope for you. One of the greatest jokes ever, from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Defining the executives of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation – the definition from the HGG, “First up against the wall when the revolution comes”, then a long boring definition from the Encyclopedia Galactica. Then, from a copy of the Encyclopedia Galactica which fell through a time warp from the future, the new definition “first up against the wall when the revolution came.”

    • “First up against the wall when the revolution comes” was a common form of denunciation among sixties-era radicals in the U.S. and the UK, who were not always joking. Think of the Black Panthers, the Weathermen, the RCP, the worldwide unrest in 1968. Ted is familiar with this history. It’s not a Douglas Adams reference. Adams was making a joke ABOUT all this.

      http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=369691

  4. > This is what happens when you trust free markets.

    According to the Invisible Hand Of The Free Market, my insurance rates should go down while the quality of the coverage goes up. Yet I see the exact opposite happening. How’s that again? Has anybody seen the Invisible Hand lately?

    I do worry about the half-a-loaf argument. It assumes that the whole loaf is attainable in the real world. How many people starve while waiting for that whole loaf? We have signed up millions who didn’t have health care before, and the economy didn’t bleed jobs as the wingnuts predicted. I gotta give the ACA a ‘C’ – passing grade, but yeah, we coulda done a whole lot better.

    The cost of the CEO salaries comes right out of your pocket, as does the salary of the guy whose job it is to deny your claims. Single Payer would cost the entire economy much less money without all those parasites to support. (then the parasites would have the opportunity to become makers instead of takers.)

    Lack of universal coverage also comes right out of your pocket – and those costs are everywhere higher than they could have been. Parents that can’t afford to vaccinate their kids cause epidemics, and epidemics are far more expensive than the shot they skipped. A pregnant woman who can’t afford prenatal care winds up in the emergency room late term over things that could have been caught earlier when they’re cheaper to fix. Grown ups don’t get minor injuries attended to until they’ve got gangrene to content with.

    • Absolutely! Because there would never be a corrupt government official who gets rich from kickbacks and payoffs coming from him abusing the power he has over the healthcare industry. Single payer government-managed healthcare would never favor the wealthy and connected at all.

      • … while in our original system the CEOs were all altruists, above corruption and totally not overpaid. Contrary to my perception, my insurance coverage actually got better while my rates got lower.

        ANY system in which the moving parts are human beings is subject to corruption. However, fewer moving parts mean fewer places where corruption can breed. If the money passes through fewer hands, then there are fewer sticky fingers involved in the transaction.

        IN THEORY – a governmental solution is subject to the oversight of the patients; while the existing health care industry is subject only to the oversight of CEOs. Which do you trust more: the guy who needs medical care, or the guy who profits from denying that care?

      • “IN THEORY – a governmental solution is subject to the oversight of the patients; while the existing health care industry is subject only to the oversight of CEOs.”

        Which is why holding corrupt cops and officials in the US is always so easy right? Face it – a local health commissar would have so many job protections that there would be no way to hold him any more accountable than any current CEO. Less in fact, given the inherently restrictive nature of socialism (see USSR, Cambodia, China, Europe, etc) removes vital tools like free speech/press/assembly and what not.

        Taking your own argument and reversing it, if both systems will be bad, it’s best to take the one which affords the most individual liberty.

      • Who ever said anything about full-on socialism? I certainly didn’t. That said, we already have several socialized programs in this country, how do you like your interstate highway system? How about that postal service that can carry a letter cross country for 1% of what it would cost to send it FedEx?

        But if you want to make it a capitalism-vs-socialism argument, them please explain why the invisible hand isn’t working.

      • Why don’t we start right here to clarify that “single payer” is about health INSURANCE to pay for healthcare.

        It is NOT the healthcare system itself.

      • @falco – bingo, in socialized medicine the doctors work for the state, and that’s not what we’re discussing. (at least it’s not what *I’M* discussing, can’t speak for everyone here 😉

        How about an insurance collective? Credit Unions offer better rates than banks because they aren’t trying to support the lifestyles of the rich and infamous. Credit Unions are subject to the oversight of their customers.

      • Mr. H, neither the Post Office or the DoT are what you’d call models of efficiency are they?

        As far as this difference between universal coverage and socialized medicine, well, Ayn Rand herself would be in awe of such a word game. If your only source of income is the government, then whether you are literally a government employee or not really is irrelevant.

        As to the “no true comrade” argument, I’ll just say this: So long as the premise is that the individual is property of the state, to be disposed of as the collective wills (through, of course, those chosen to speak and act on behalf of the collective) then the degree to which that impact the individual is unimportant. In short, it doesn’t make a fundamental difference if you are the house slave of a good master (Modern Eurosocialism) or the field slave of a bad master (USSR).

      • FB:

        1) If you don’t understand the difference between socialized medicine & single payer, you’re not qualified to have an opinion, let alone waste bandwidth posting it. Among other things, competition between providers still exists under single payer. OTOH, if we follow your reasoning, today’s doctors work for the insurance companies – I fail to see how that is any better. Single payer is accountable to people who need medical care; a corporation is accountable only to people who want more money.

        If you want to talk about efficiency, consider the efficiency of the hospital billing department. Every insurance company has different forms, different processes, and different rules. This increases the accounting overhead tremendously.

        It used to be that the hospital could add a ‘miscellaneous supplies’ to the cost of an operation. Today, insurance companies demand an exact count of sutures, pads, clamps etc. That means an extra scrub nurse in the OR, even more accounting overhead, etc.

        Insurance adjusters are evaluated on how many charges they can turn down. You pay their salaries as well.

        2) I can send a letter from Anchorage to Miami for 49 cents, and they pick it up at my house. The same service from FedEx costs nearly fifty dollars. My idea of efficiency is based on a cost-benefit ratio; and a 99% discount for the same benefit certainly sounds attractive to me. The Postmaster General costs 240k a year, the CEO of FedEx costs 25M. Again, those costs come out of my pocket, and again I’m looking at a 99% discount.

        3) Still waiting on why the invisible hand isn’t working. I’m sure you realize that’s the canonical reason for why we-the-workers are supposed to embrace capitalism.. Yet if the promised benefits don’t actually happen, then doesn’t that blow your argument out of the water?

      • Just injecting some info here, not any argument or conclusions.

        Persistently, when I speak with people who have excellent insurance (CAL/PERS types), they let me know that — while every suture is counted by the “death-panel” filter — the tactics of inflating a medical bill are pernicious, especially if you’re not qualified to assess the charges on your bill.

        These excess charges are frequently caused by the “charge-expanding” health-care provider themselves. “We want to include you in a survey of widget-extractor candidates such as yourself. Do you mind participating?” In the next bill to your insurance company, there is inserted an extra $9,000 charge. Those with excellent insurance coverage gets hit much more frequently.

        Who do you think this kind of criminal conduct hurts the most?

        DanD

      • Hey, Dan –

        I believe that what you’re talking about is a symptom of our broken health care system.

        My employer pays for my insurance. That’s a deal between two capitalists – I’m not involved in the decision making process. Among other things, the insurance company decides which doctors I see. That’s another deal between two capitalists & I’m not involved in the decision making process.

        The deal goes like this: if you agree to treat our clients for less money then we’ll send more business your way. So how do the health care providers make up the difference? They cut care on one end, and inflate prices where ever they can on the other.

        Every health care provider I’ve ever spoken to hates insurance companies as much as the patients. If the Invisible Hand hadn’t disappeared, it should work like this: The better doctors get more patients, they get more business and their costs come down. The other doctors notice that, and either improve their service or lower their prices.

        But because I’m out of the decision making loop, the feedback doesn’t occur. The worst example of the problem is all-in-one providers like Group Health. The doctors work directly for the insurance company, and the company wants to cut costs to increase profits. The doctors are schooled to order fewer tests and write fewer prescriptions.

        Their bottom line improves, but the patients suffer for it.

        Another problem is that hospitals and clinics are businesses. Health care takes a back seat to profits. I had a seriously bad experience with a doc a while back, wrote a letter of complaint to the hospital, and got a letter back that must have been crafted by a lawyer. It said they were very sorry for events that didn’t occur. (wha?) They were more worried about covering their asses than treating patients. Later I saw that the doc in question no longer worked there and I got a letter from my insurance company stating that they’d no longer pay his fees. Reading between the lines, I suspect I wasn’t the first to complain. If the hospital had come clean with me in the first place, they’d still have me as a patie … uh, I mean “customer.”

        For the most part, doctors and nurses are decent people, sincerely interested in helping other people. It’s just that the decisions are made by insurance companies and hospital CEOs. THOSE people don’t give a squat about patients, they’re in it for the money.

      • CrazyH ~

        I appreciate your assessment and it seems to fit. As it goes, the person I spoke of doesn’t dislike her health provider (CAL/PERS brands of healthcare ARE premium) but she still doesn’t feel fine about being a tool to bleed the system.

        Ultimately, because a superfluous (though “lawfully” mandatory) level of healthcare management is literally crammed down the public’s throat, being predatory capitalists first (and frequently NOT educated health-care providers at all) a 1,000% overpay seems about par for the course. But to the capitalist oligarchs of WDC, the public NOT having that extra cash to spend on education (or alternative political representation …) is a GOOD thing.

        Hoo-Raw for the two-party, one tyranny state.

        DanD

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