Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Health Insurers' Self-Inflicted Wounds

If there is an emergency room for lobbyists, the gunslingers for America's health insurance giants need treatment for shooting themselves in the foot when they went on the attack this week against the Senate Finance Committee's bill.

Their coming out of the weeds has drawn fire, first from the White House ("everyone recognizes their motives: profits") and now Nancy Pelosi as she warns of tougher regulation and notes:

"It is absolutely clear that it is an unsustainable situation as we go forward, and it is well known to the public that the health insurance companies are the problem."

Instead of the insinuating "Harry and Louise" TV ads that helped torpedo the Clintons' health reform efforts, the insurers went for the jugular with a "report" that Paul Krugman characterizes as "A Hatchet Job So Bad It's Good":

"For 2009, it turns out, is not 1993. Once again, Republicans have tried to kill reform with smears and scare stories. But all they seem to have killed with their cries of 'socialism' and warnings about 'death panels' is their own credibility. Some form of health-care reform is highly likely to pass."

Yes, but the disheartening part of all this is that the President's "victory" will turn out to be a patchwork of fixes for a bad system that never should have grown into the monstrosity it now is.

Over half a century ago, when it was being put together, I asked my Congressman, a liberal Republican named John Lindsay who later became Mayor of New York and ran for President as a Democrat, why American health care was being put into the hands of insurance companies.

"Well," he answered, "you wouldn't the government to run it, would you?"

The answer then and now is they couldn't have done worse.

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