By Drew Armstrong
August 26, 2010
Health insurers led by WellPoint Inc. are backing Republicans with campaign donations by an 8-to-1 margin, favoring the party that’s promised to repeal President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul if it wins back Congress.
WellPoint, Humana, Aetna, Cigna and UnitedHealth Group Inc. have also been considering a $20 million-plus campaign fund to reward friends and punish enemies in Congress. That fund would target vulnerable Democrats who have spoken out against the industry, and would support candidates who are likely to argue for the industry’s positions during future debate on the health overhaul.
By Don McCanne, MD
With private insurers supporting Republicans by an 8-to-1 margin, there is no question but that the insurers are supporting their own financial interests, regardless of the negative impact on people who need health care.
The Republicans remain opposed to all forms of social insurance that would make health care accessible and affordable for everyone (not that the Democrats did much better this time around). Instead Republicans support measures such as high-deductible health plans, health savings accounts, elimination of mandated benefits such as mental health and maternity care, and promoting interstate sale of less regulated, Spartan plans.
Insurers prefer these plans because they are the most profitable. Many individuals in the large healthy sector of our population tend to prefer these plans because the premiums are lower. Unfortunately for the sick, these plans shift a burdensome amount of the health care costs to the patients in need, not to mention the fact that the insurers have been relatively successful in avoiding these higher-cost individuals in the first place.
Republicans support these proposals because of their ideological stance, believing that each person should be responsible for their own welfare, making exceptions only for those who are the most destitute, not of their own making. They oppose the social solidarity of “collectivist” approaches such as universal insurance programs, whether public or private.
A distinction should be made between the current, lock-step, obstructionist, party-of-NO Republicans, and the nearly extinct species of progressive Republican – many of whom have become independent. It is this obstructionist Republican bloc that serves so well the interests of the private insurers.
It’s sad that the Democrats got into bed with these people. The Democrats ended up supporting the right-wing private insurance model of Mitt Romney and the Heritage Foundation to appease the Republicans and the private insurers. That resulted in the enactment of a terribly flawed program that will not adequately control costs, and will leave tens of millions uninsured and many more underinsured.
The insurers now want to send us more of these reactionary politicians. Aren’t there enough of us who care about the health of all of our people to step up and counter this? Or is it merely all words (for the pollsters), and no action (on behalf of those with health care needs)?
Where are our activists?