‘A single payer system is urgently needed to solve this catastrophic crisis for working people’
By Lawrence J. Hanley
The Huffington Post, Aug. 13, 2015
The flurry of recent merger announcements from the handful of remaining national health insurance providers is cause for alarm for all Americans.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has taken nearly full effect and it is clear that staggering annual increases in health insurance premium costs are still with us. The skyrocketing costs of health insurance and health care treatment are pushing working American families well past the breaking point. There is a limit to what working people can afford to pay for what should be a human right.
The most recent corporate advances down the road of health insurance monopolization are the announcements that the enormous Aetna intends to absorb rival Humana, and at the same time the Anthem corporate giant — formerly WellPoint — is maneuvering to swallow Cigna.
Should these latest anti-competitive takeover moves go unchallenged by the Obama Justice Department when there is little doubt that the trend of double digit premium increases will accelerate?
In many areas of the country today there are frequently only one or two health insurers available when workers try to grapple with the dramatically rising premiums and costs. Their frequently identical plan offerings and prices raise the obvious suspicion that the insurers have fixed prices and rigged market share somehow.
And while these latest insurance company combinations and practices will be scrutinized by some states, that level of review is uneven and forced on reluctant state insurance departments ill-equipped to deal with such enormous corporations and their armies of legal and lobbying representatives.
Must Confront Corporate Criminality
It is urgent that the Obama Administration act swiftly and decisively to confront corporate criminality.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has recently awoken from its slumber on the antitrust front, and has begun preliminary moves to investigate the obvious price fixing of the major airlines. They are likewise reviewing the sale of the General Electric appliances division to the European Electrolux corporation. But while both of these are cases are critical to the restoration of some semblance of an antitrust enforcement policy, the potential damage to working people from greater monopolization of the key health insurance sector is incalculable.
Until the United States Congress finds the political will to abolish our costly and badly broken health insurance industry the monopoly racketeers must at least be confronted and restricted from free rein.
A single payer system is urgently needed to solve this catastrophic crisis for working people.
Until then it is imperative that the Obama Administration utilize its full DOJ resources to investigate and stop the trend towards complete monopolization in the health insurance industry. This action takes no act of Congress, but merely requires the political leadership to commit the Justice Department to enforce existing laws on an industry that has demonstrated its intention to defy the law and rob working people in the process.
Lawrence J. Hanley is international president, Amalgamated Transit Union in D.C., and member of the AFL-CIO’s Executive Council.