Archive for May 20th, 2009|Daily archive page

The new Harry & Louise? Health Care Fearmongering

Despite a recent “we’ll be better this time, honest!” initiative, the health care industry is already starting to sabotage the Obama health care reform plan. This is what we’re up against:

The scene appears to be at a convention – a nicer hotel or conference center environment, full of people who are there to do business. Suits, pantsuits, nicer dress generally, lots of the same muted tones. They look like Washington people. The sound is mainly the growing din of conversation. Everything gets slowly louder and more frenzied. Maybe the establishing shot is a wide frame of the multitude, and it slowly zooms in over the course of the spot.

Snippets of conversation, almost yelled out to be heard over the noise, are audible:
“…pre-existing conditions? Nobody knows yet…”
“…of course the system isn’t ready for this. But I don’t see how you can slow it down…”
“…yeah, a lot like Medicare…”

Other background phrases include:
What about lines?
Larger system
Rising premiums
Individual mandate

As the camera searches the room, or continues to narrow the frame after beginning at a wide focus, an older Hispanic woman comes into view. She’s standing quietly in the middle of the action, as if she found herself at the wrong party, and doesn’t know a soul. The background noise is dialed down significantly, enough to hear her say to no one in particular: “Will somebody just tell me whether my Al will still be able to see Dr. Ferguson if we go through with this government plan?”

Although nobody stops to notice her, or even stops talking, the question is met with silence. She maintains a concerned look, waiting.

Final caption:The plans for health care reform being discussed in Washington will have very real consequences for all of us. Let’s make sure we know what we’re getting into. To learn more about what current plans for government-run health care mean to you and your family, you’ve come to the right place.

Of course, the goal of the private insurance industry, in this case Blue Cross & Blue Shield of North Carolina, is to torpedo the public option. They are saying it will limit choice, lead to longer waits, rationing, etc etc… but they really have no ground to stand on here. Nobody in the current debate is advocating a move to an entirely government run health care system. It’s a public OPTION, meaning if the for-profit industry can provide better coverage then they will continue to survive and thrive.

Yglesias, as usual, nails it:

If the public option offered rationing and low-quality care, why would anyone sign up for it? Nobody would. That kind of low-quality public option would give private insurance nothing to fear. But what they really fear isn’t that a public option would be bad, it’s that it would be good—putting effective cost-controls in place without compromising patient care, thus threatening private industry’s business model.

That, however, is one of the best ways at our disposal to make health reform really work. A public option that strives to achieve public goals—quality care at an affordable price—will challenge private industry to do a better job. Then competition between plans will drive improvements in quality and efficiency. Without a public option, the risk is that private plans will compete by trying to screen out sick patients. That’s a viable root to private sector profits, but it does nothing to improve quality or control costs.

On a related note, my favorite argument by some public option opponents: “it will place private health insurance companies at an unfair disadvantage.” Um, that’s the point. Supporters of the public option are confident that the government can deliver quality health care for cheaper than the private market, like it does in virtually every other advanced nation. If private companies are openly admitting an inherent market disadvantage vis-a-vis the public sector, then why should they exist? Really, this industry/GOP talking point is just silly on its face.