Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Competition? What competition?

Health Care for America Now!'s Illinois chapter struggles with blogging. First, they forgot to turn off the default list of Wordpress links; then, they had a variety of formatting troubles. They post infrequently. They have yet to figure out how to use categories or tags, and currently when you try to leave a comment, the blog reports: "ERROR: It looks like the website administrator hasn't activated the Brians Threaded Comments plugin from the plugin page."

Since I have twice e-mailed them in the past with bug reports and offers to help and haven't received so much as an acknowledgment, I'm not going to bother again.

The post I was trying to reply to is of interest, however. As you may know, one of the stupid ideas floating around Washington right now is a proposal for a "trigger" that would only put a public insurance option in place if competition among private insurance companies drops below a set level. HCAN has a new report showing that we already lack competition in the Illinois health insurance marketplace, leading to skyrocketing premiums for both patients and employers.
"The report shows how a handful of private health insurance companies have built a near-monopoly in the Illinois market, burdening families and businesses with premiums that grew 5.6 times faster than wages from 2000 to 2007. Illinois' two largest health insurers control 67% share of the market. Under a competition rating system used by the U.S. Justice Department, the Illinois market is "concentrated." The local markets are even worse for Rockford (82%), Bloomington-Normal (87%), and Champaign-Urbana (83%) where the US Justice Department considers these local markets 'highly concentrated.'"
HCAN-IL has unfortunately headed this with the title, "New Report Details Need for Competition in Illinois Health Insurance Market," which is not only boring, but also a wrong-headed conclusion. (HCAN, though right in their condemnation of the insurance industry's foul business practices, is cowardly in their proposals for reform. They believe the public option is the best we can hope for, and they don't think one's reach ought to exceed one's grasp.)

Here's the reply I'd have made if they'd had their comments working:
While I'm sure your data is correct, I disagree with your conclusions. What your report indicates is a need to do away with private insurance altogether, and replace it with a cost-effective, comprehensive, single-payer system that avoids the layers of waste and profiteering implicit in the health-insurance industry.

The public option plan is already a weak compromise, not real health reform, and the "trigger" is an abysmal idea that will continue to stop Americans from getting health care.


  1. I had the same experience with trying to help HCAN better use the Internet. Then, they just turned me off with their intolerance for other close, but not exact, views so it was just as well they ignored my advice.

    The trigger is a bad idea because it puts people who need the public option now in a holding pattern. It's supposed to be Health Care for American NOW, not Health Care for America Maybe, Eventually.

    I was on Dean's call last night. On the call, Dr. Dean admitted that the only way to control costs is in the public sector. The public option was selected because it "tested well". Sheesh. This is just lowest common denominator politics and does not give us what we need or is best for the country.

  2. I just thought I should give you a heads up that HCAN! is an astro-turf effort done by the Democrats created under the guise of actual reform, but is in actuality a group that will likely wind up weakly supporting whatever plan the Democrats come up with.

    For a true single-payer advocacy group that will accept nothing less than single-payer, Healthcare-NOW! is the group to join.

    Healthcare-NOW! also was around first - interesting how the DNC chose a name so similar for their new group that has goals so distant from the original. :(

    I'm not saying HCAN! is something with which you should not be associated, but be aware they're very likely to support an incredibly weak public plan and not push for single-payer.


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