It was only a matter of time.
As long as they thought that the costs of health care reform would all fall on the government, the taxpayers, individuals, drug companies, and hospitals, the insurance industry was silent, even mildly supportive.
When the Senate Finance Committee cut the penalties people would have to pay if they don't buy insurance, the rumblings started. The penalties went from $950 for an individual and $3800 for a family down to nothing for the first year, and then $200 for an individual and $1900 for a family eventually, on an increasing basis over time.
And the insurance companies started to yelp. If they have to accept people with pre-existing conditions, they need, they say, the young healthy people, too -- the people least likely to buy insurance even if there's a mandate. They'd rather pay the $200 fine than spend $300-$400 per month on a premium. They're young. They're short-sighted. They don't hear the calls I get from young people who found out they had a chronic illness after having foregone health insurance, and now they can't find anything to cover their pre-existing conditions.
The insurance companies were willing to take us sickos as long as they got these healthy kids. But with penalties this low, they aren't assured they'll get the healthy. So now, they don't want to have to take people with pre-existing conditions.
And they hate the tax on so-called Cadillac plans -- plans that cost $8000 per year for an individual and $21,000 for a family. I'm no fan of this tax, either, but that's because I understand that many plans are this expensive because insurers charge groups with sick enrollees more, even if they aren't supposed to. The insurers hate it because the tax is on them, not on the insureds.
And finally, the insurers don't like the cuts to Medicare Advantage plans. That's because private insurers run Medicare Advantage plans. They've been making out like bandits on these plans, getting paid more by the federal government than it costs the government to provide the same services under traditional Medicare. We advocates knew the Medicare Advantage plans were rip-offs because we are the ones who heard from the patients who faced denials of coverage of things that would have been covered by traditional Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans were rip-offs all along. The government finally figured that out and decided to take away their profits. Boo hoo.
Here's what I think. What's bad for insurers is probably good for the rest of us. I'm not overjoyed by the Senate Finance Committee bill, but I'm surely not going to mind at all if the insurers have to feel some of the pain. After all, if they hadn't put profit motive over health all along -- if they hadn't denied coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, if they hadn't denied coverage of things that were life and death necessities -- we might not have needed health insurance reform at all.
Most of us have to live with the consequences of our actions. Sorry, UnitedHealthcare. Sorry, Aetna and CIGNA. So so sorry, Blue Crosses who like to pretend that they're better than the rest but most definitely are not. Sorry you'll have to pay part of the price for the damage you've done.
It was inevitable that the insurers would oppose reform efforts. It only took this long because they really thought they would walk away from this unscathed until the Senate Finance Committee bill was written and then amended. Now that they see the writing on the wall, the inevitable screaming has begun.
Let's see if our elected officials are ready to stand up to them. Jennifer