The New York Times placed the story on its front business page Thursday. It belonged as one of the main headlines on page 1.
“US Turns to Waivers to Address Talk of Dropping Health Coverage,” the headline read (It’s here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/07/business/07insure.html)
In plain English, that means the Obama Administratin is undermining the so-called health care bill (a/k/a The Protect Employers and Insurers Act [PEIA]) by allowing employers like McDonald’s and insurers like WellPoint, Aetna and Cigna to weasel out of the coverage the new law commands, beginning next month. This applies, says the Times, to about a million people who work at 30 different companies.
The first thing to go is the removal of the stipulation that coverage for limited-benefit plans have no limits on coverage. Without the waivers, applicants for the wavers said such premiums could as much as double. (In what case, what do we need PEIA for? That’s been happening to anyone with the bad manners to get sick for decades.) The insurance companies still refuse to cover kids who get sick: “they will stop selling new policies in some states because the rules do not protect them from having to cover too many sick children.”
It’s worth pointing out that the theory of insurance is that you cover all the sick kids whose parents pay premiums. That is the only possible rationale — except a tender love for high profits and a maniacal belief in the Magic of the Market–for allowing private health care companies to force us to buy their products.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy insurance. I’m saying we’re all being robbed every day because the insurers think the premiums are their money and sick people are somebody else’s worry.
The Times believes (and so do I, and should you) that this hints at how the administration will “handle” insurers on the very important issue of the ratio of consumer health care payments to administrative overhead.
Under the States Rights philosophy that guided both the Confederacy and the Congress that passed PEIA, the federal government has little power over how the law is enforced. That is left up to the Haley Barbours of this world, men and women who would are even more venal, corporate-friendly and anti-citizen than the feds. So the Obama Administration is really just softening things up in preparation for 2014, when the law will go fully into effect.
Putting the law into full effect means this: You will buy health insurance that is worth not more and possibly quite less, dollar for dollar, than what you are buying now. Only those who are now without insurance–which on any given day is over 40 million, granted–will benefit. The situation for millions will not improve; for other millions, it will deteriorate. We will be told, through 2014, that we need to wait, let the new system establish itself.
Even if that were true, which it almost certainly isn’t, how can the new system created by PEIA work if the specifics of the new law aren’t enforced?
Maybe federal administrators can answer that one. Unfortunately, nobody is thinking that far ahead. And when it becomes even clearer some time around 2016, I’m guessing, that Congress screwed up and needs to create something closer to a real health care act, the struggle to create a new one will begin. This process seems to take about 2o years.
We don’t need a new health care system–and we’ll be dying without one–half as bad as we need a new political system. One committed to justice, fairness, the rights of workers and the, what is it, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for ALL, not a privileged few. Congress will not create that system, you and I will. Or else, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for the vast majority of American citizens will become an more disgusting joke than it is today.