Favoring The Insured - And The HMOs
by Deacon Blues
Think the problem of ballooning health insurance premiums in the individual marketplace is an isolated issue stemming from Blue Cross’s boneheaded move in California? Guess again. Insurers are gouging individual policy holders across the country in 2010, all with a bad sense of timing given that it has reenergized the health care reform debate at a time when the industry had successfully bought off Congress to kill reform one more time. The industry says they need to raise rates anywhere from 15% to nearly 40% to compensate for spiraling health care cost inflation, which itself is a great reason for reform. Yet even this excuse is hollow, as there is no segment of the health care cost chain that has increased over the last two years as much as these premiums.
At the upcoming summit, Democrats are expected to focus on increasing affordable coverage to the millions of the uninsured, while the GOP will disregard covering the uninsured and simply focus on making coverage affordable for those who already have insurance. This will be a tall order for the GOP, given the increases demanded by the industry over the last two years, all with the stated reason being medical cost inflation that doesn’t match the premiums. The GOP will be left with trusting the HMOs to make the case that everyone else is to blame for the problem except the HMOs. Good luck with that one.
To sell this argument, the GOP and the HMOs would have to blame doctors, hospitals, drug companies, trial lawyers, and the sick themselves while portraying the insurance industry as nothing more than an innocent bystander trying to hold down costs. Sure, it's easy for them to blame trial lawyers for rising costs, but independent studies show this is at most several percent a year, if that. Given that the HMOs are seeking in some cases increases of well over 35% over the last two years, that would leave the GOP to blame everyone else at a time when the HMOs have seen consistent profits.