Dear Insurance Giants: Please don’t screw us again
WASHINGTON — Hospitals and insurance companies said Thursday that President Obama had substantially overstated their promise earlier this week to reduce the growth of health spending.
Mr. Obama invited health industry leaders to the White House on Monday to trumpet their cost-control commitments. But three days later, confusion swirled in Washington as the companies’ trade associations raced to tamp down angst among members around the country.
After meeting with six major health care organizations, Mr. Obama hailed their cost-cutting promise as historic.
“These groups are voluntarily coming together to make an unprecedented commitment,” Mr. Obama said. “Over the next 10 years, from 2010 to 2019, they are pledging to cut the rate of growth of national health care spending by 1.5 percentage points each year — an amount that’s equal to over $2 trillion.”
Health care leaders who attended the meeting have a different interpretation. They say they agreed to slow health spending in a more gradual way and did not pledge specific year-by-year cuts.
Is anyone really surprised by this? This is the only case I can think of where the government is essentially asking an industry to regulate itself. When the auto industry first got into trouble, the government raked its CEOs over the coals and demanded changes (albeit usually from the unions.) Restructuring the health care system inherently means antiquating the insurance industry, so why is Obama inviting their input at all? Of course, insurance lobbyists are going to desperately try to gut whatever nationalized health care program graces Obama’s desk.
When pharmaceutical fanboy Senator Max Baucus is on the Finance Committee relegated to “fixing” health care, and not a single representative for single payer health care is even invited to the discussion table, then the diversity of solutions becomes quite limited. Inviting the very entities responsible for the woeful state of the health care industry into a discussion about the healthcare industry itself alters the framing of the discussion from “how do we fix this?” to “how do we save the insurance industry?”
And the American people — as usual — will pay the price.