GOP health care plan aims to protect insurers |

GOP health care plan aims to protect insurers

Felicia Muftic / My View
Grand County, Colorado

Well, well. The Party of No finally said yes last week to some sort of health care reform. Republicans finally recognize that even after their proposals to reduce the cost of health care are adopted, there will still be those who cannot afford to buy insurance and some form of government subsidy or tax credit will be necessary. The way they propose to do it will be lousy for consumers but great for private insurers.

Republicans are determined to shield private insurers from competing with a public option. They plan to provide those who cannot afford private health insurance with an underinsurance plan. They want to deny consumers the ability to choose between a public plan and a private plan and they want to stick both consumers and our treasury with the continued high administrative costs of private insurance. Their proposal will do nothing to encourage private insurers to lower administrative costs and it will result in continued use of expensive emergency room treatment.

ER treatment for those who cannot pay their bills costs hospitals thousands of dollars per visit and those costs are shifted to paying customers, either in the form of higher deductibles or in higher insurance premiums. One of President Obama’s goals is to provide comprehensive insurance so indigent patients would stop using the emergency room as their family doctor. This would be a savings to hospitals of $106 billion over 10 years.

The Republicans propose a tax credit for those who could not afford health insurance so they can buy catastrophic and preventative care insurance from private insurers. That at least is an improvement, but what good does it do if the consumer cannot afford follow-up screenings, medication, a biopsy, or treatment that is not considered catastrophic? What if the consumer has to pay for insurance up front and wait for reimbursement in the form of a tax credit? Those underinsured will have to seek help through the ER again and potential savings will be lost.

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Why do Republicans oppose a public option with such vehemence? Their friends, the private insurance companies, want to continue making the same profits and paying the same commissions (Per their own study, private insurers’ administrative costs of profits and commissions eat up 12 percent more of the premiums than do Medicare, our government run and funded program). Obviously, private insurers do not want competition from cheaper government-funded programs because they would have to reduce their profits and agent commissions. Without some government agency regulating these (which no one is proposing), the only way to force private insurers to lower margins is by the old fashioned method of having them compete with a cheaper/ more comprehensive public plan … such as Obama is proposing.

To get you to buy into their proposal to rely on private insurers, Republicans love to tell you how awful the government option would be. They claim government will step between your doctor and you and force you to wait in line. That would be true if what Obama proposed was the single payer Canadian system. But that is in no way is what Obama is proposing. Unlike Canada, public and private options will run simultaneously for you to choose between. For those who fear government, a non-profit co-op administered plan might be a soothing buffer, but most Republicans have not embraced that, either, because it would still be in competition with private for-profit insurers.

The Republicans counter that eventually you will not have a choice because private insurers could not compete and employers would drop employer-based private insurance. Hogwash. My UK friends tell me private insurance companies even out bid government insurers to get union contracts. Dental, supplemental, travel insurance keep private companies busy in Canada and Canada uniquely forbids private comprehensive plans. Everywhere else private insurance competes with public plans in scope and price.

What about the full employment argument Republicans use: If employers drop private insurance because the public option is so much cheaper and better, 4 million people will lose their jobs. Are we talking jobs programs or what is best for the consumer? Even then, I recall that we had to bail out the auto industry to save 3 million jobs because the companies could not afford to pay for health insurance and the cost of health benefits added $2,500 per car, making it difficult to compete.

Rationing? Our health care is rationed today in the most arbitrary and unfair way possible by private insurers who refuse coverage for obtuse reasons or pre-existing conditions. The 40 million uninsured have the ultimate rationing: a choice of no care or the ER. With a choice of public and private plans, if you do not like what one offers, you can choose another one.

So far as individual consumers are concerned, the Republican counter proposal for health care insurance restricted to private insurers is not even pennywise. It is just pound foolishness. Less choice, less coverage, more cost per consumer.

– Visit her Muftic Forum blog at (topics: shooting from the lips on Iran; co-op run health insurance) and her Web site,

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