Insurance Companies Can't Be Held Accountable If They Can Dictate Legislation

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Sep 10, 2009 at 15:25


Last night, President Obama said that he wants to hold insurance companies accountable:

Now, I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business.  They provide a legitimate service, and employ a lot of our friends and neighbors.  I just want to hold them accountable.

And he told House Progressives that the public option was only one of many possible means to that end:

To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage affordable for those without it.  The public option is only a means to that end - and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal.

In response, I submit the following: it is impossible for the federal government to hold insurance companies accountable if those insurance companies can dictate whatever types of legislation they want to Congress.

Private health insurance companies have made the public option just as much of a sticking point as House Progressives have. Whereas House Progressives have stated they will oppose any health care reform legislation without a "robust" public option, private health insurance companies have stated they will oppose any legislation that includes one.

If these private health insurance companies can have a public option removed from health care legislation just because they do, then there is really no way to hold private health insurance companies accountable. If these companies have enough control over the federal government that they can dictate legislation against the wishes of the member of Congress themselves, then there is simply no way that the federal government can hold private health insurance companies accountable by any means.

So far under the Democratic trifecta, we had stimulus bill that was approved of by the Chamber of Commerce. We saw limits on executive compensation for firms receiving bailout money removed from that same stimulus bill in order to get those executives to accept hundreds of billions in government loans. We had bankruptcy reform favorable to people losing their homes removed from housing legislation in order to appease those same banks. We saw six Democratic Senators flip on card check legislation to appease large employers. We saw a climate change bill that gives away billions of dollars worth of pollution permits to major polluters for free. Now, we have a health insurance industry seeking to kill a public health insurance option just because there might be a chance that providing insurance to people without providing hundreds of millions in salaries to executives might actually result in lower-priced health insurance.

I submit that as long as powerful financial institutions--and that is exactly what private health insurance companies are--can dictate legislation to Congress, then there is no possible way for Congress to hold those financial institutions accountable. You can't drop the public option at the behest of private health insurers and then still think you are somehow going to hold those insurers accountable through a different means.

This fight is about who runs the country. If Congress drops the public option, it will be because private health insurers told them to drop it. If there is no public option, then these powerful corporations and financial institutions are the ones telling Congress what to do, not the other way around. And when someone is only and ever giving you orders, good luck ever holding that someone accountable. Ever.

Chris Bowers :: Insurance Companies Can't Be Held Accountable If They Can Dictate Legislation

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He's Holding Them Accountable To Themselves (4.00 / 8)
Sort of like he's holding BushCo accountable for torture.

Accountability is different for big folks and little folks.

Or rather, it's the same:

    The little folks are accountable to the big folks.
    And so are the big folks!
There's a bipartisan consensus on that.

Among the big folks, of course!

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3


Corporate management controls this country (0.00 / 0)
and don't you forget it.

The corporate controlled media will rain hell fire and brimstone on any politician who tries to hold corporations accountable to the public.

Democratic politicians are still scared witless of Fox News. Van Jones exit left.

Joe McCarthy lives.


[ Parent ]
Campaign Finance Reform (0.00 / 0)
Is it time yet to revisit this issue?

Our Dime Understanding the U.S. Budget

Unconstitutional (0.00 / 0)
By all accounts what little we have today is about to be tossed overboard by the Supreme Court.

Perhaps that will galvanize a real change, but don't hold your breath.


[ Parent ]
Only spending limits (0.00 / 0)
are on the chopping block. Public funding and / or free air time will not be threatened by the Court - and regardless of the Court's ruling, it's time to push these ideas.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
$$$$$$$$$FREE SPEECH$$$$$$$$1ST AMENDMENT$$$$$$ (0.00 / 0)
$$$$$$I AM A PERSON$$$$$$$$JUST LIKE YOU$$$$$$$$$WITH A BRAND AND THE SAME RIGHTS$$$$$

It's long past time, but we still need to revisit Corporate personhood in the 14th amendment as well as keep fighting on this issue even though we keep getting struck down.

Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, 118 U.S. 394 (1886) was a United States Supreme Court case dealing with taxation of railroad properties. The case is most notable for the obiter dictum statement that juristic persons are entitled to protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Forgive the obnoxious snark, but I felt like making the point that way and I'm kin of a new poster here, though I read and am a fan of many who post here.



[ Parent ]
Taxes to corporations without representation ... (4.00 / 1)
... I think they are confusing "legality" and "legitimacy".

An individual mandate without a publicly administered choice is the moral equivalent of Taxation without Representation.

People raised in market oriented systems sure understand how a commercial corporation will act when given a captive market.

Axeldrod: Government by Consent of the Corporation (Agent Orange), also available in Blue, Red and Blue and Red White and Blue.


Agreed--let's change the name (4.00 / 2)
I think we should change the name of the "public option" to "the Great American Competitive Freedom Co-op" or something similar, and have it structured the exact same way.

1.  Co-op membership is open to any who wish to join;

2.  The Co-op will negotiate reimbursement rates, etc. on behalf of the members;

3.  The Co-op will use Medicare reimbursement rates as its immutable targets;

4.  The Co-op will be a nationwide co-op;

5.  The federal government will assist in starting and maintaining the co-op.  Much as with General Motors, the American public will "own" the co-op.

Needs some tinkering, sure; but, a public option by any other name still smells as sweet...


Sure (4.00 / 3)
Just today Reid said he would be in favor of a co-op as long as it can meet Obama's goals.  I agree!  Unfortunately, experts agree that a true co-op cannot do this.

But a fake co-op?  Seems like it could work.


[ Parent ]
Not fake (4.00 / 1)
"Co-op" is a very broad term encompassing lots of different things. The above "Great American Competitive Freedom Co-op" (great name!) would be a perfectly legitimate co-op.

[ Parent ]
That's the core issue we face (4.00 / 1)
How completely the corporate sector has captured our entire system of "representative government."

It's no longer "one person one vote"; it's "dialing for dollars."


Is this even true? (4.00 / 6)

...for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage affordable for those without it

According to the Truman Library:

In his November 19, 1945 address, President Truman called for the creation of a national health insurance fund to be run by the federal government. This fund would be open to all Americans, but would remain optional. Participants would pay monthly fees into the plan, which would cover the cost of any and all medical expenses that arose in a time of need. The government would pay for the cost of services rendered by any doctor who chose to join the program. In addition, the insurance plan would give a cash balance to the policy holder to replace wages lost due to illness or injury.

I wouldn't characterize that as "ending insurance company abuses" or "making coverage affordable to those without it." I'd say the "driving idea" was providing an alternative to private, for-profit insurance open to all Americans. The President is not reminding his "Progressive friends" of that.



Strange (4.00 / 1)
I always assumed Truman introduced universal health care.  Instead he offered a Public Option without any of the other provisions.  This is basically weaker then what we might pass this year.

[ Parent ]
It was open to all (4.00 / 2)
so I'm not sure it can be considered weaker compared to any of the versions of the public option still on the table.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
You nailed it (4.00 / 9)
The Prez engaged in some revisionist history when he mentioned "the driving force" of health insurance reform.  The driving force has never been to hold insurance companies accountable, but to get rid of them and replace them with national health care like every other western democracy.

[ Parent ]
I agree (4.00 / 5)
Why did this country ever think that private, for-profit health insurance was the way to provide health care to the masses?  For-profit health insurers have as their main goal  making money.  In order to make money, they must maximize payments to them, and minimize pay-outs, which inevitably means jettisoning those who cost them money, and refusing to pay for those who need to use their services, insofar as possible.  How is this even a sensible way to pay for health care?  

"We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid."
Benjamin Franklin


[ Parent ]
agreed (4.00 / 1)
Would have added to your "recommend" score, but the option does not appear on my new computor.

Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob..... FDR

[ Parent ]
"This fight is about who runs the country." (4.00 / 3)
This fight was over before it began, Mr. Bowers.


On balance, a "public option" as Obama described it... (4.00 / 1)
...covering less than 5%, kicking in 4 yrs from now if at all, limited to only the currently uninsured, etc; combined with the "bonanza" mandates and subsidies, industry-designed "exchange," and criminalization of single-payer attempts by the states (all DLC-approved positions) -- the insurance giants are licking their chops at the prospect of such reform.

So the feeble, impotent, all-but-unrecognizable road-kill of what Hacker described as a public option may yet appear in the final bill, since even with it, the for-profiteers' profits will skyrocket thru the mandates and subsidies.


Read my mind (0.00 / 0)
This is exactly how I reacted to the speech and to many who praise "the other supposed more important parts of the bill."

The Insurance lobby literally wrote Medicare part D which is bankrupting Medicare along with Medicare Advantage so Insurance companies can suckle of the fruits of Medicare while claiming since they are bankrupting it through privatization, that we can't ever have Medicare for All or even an option.

Writing their own regulations will be no different; we have seen this movie before. We are wayy too easily enamored with a speech, not us here, but Democrats in all of Congress whether progressive or not and some in the blogosphere, though the lovefest is too be expected at the DK. there's even more reason to be concerned as we on the progressive left are talked down to and equated as just two pieces of the extremist pie with those talking about unplugging grandma and how a public option is just a means to an end. that might be true if the end was what we really want and what we really need in the long run, single payer, but our President and many Democrats defending this lack a clairvoyant model where we keep a monopolistic for profit loose regulation guised as regulation system can't seem to find this system where we magically let the insurance lobby strip a public option from whatever bill comes out of the finance committee and int conference.

There is no reason to think that as along as we have big monopolistic insurance companies in each state like we have big banks we refuse to break up, that we can tame the beast into a new creation that is unlike the Swiss, unlike Japan, unlike Germany, unlike NHS, unlike Canada, and unlike the Netherlands all of which either regulate insurance companies like utility companies or take them out of the equation and fund the hospitals with tax dollars whether public or private as that is a mandate that works.

There is no model of success without a chance to go the route of any of these countries without a public option. So there are no betetr ideas, these are the ideas and this is the reality, Mr. President. Don't pee on my boots and tell me it's raining.

Great work, Chris. Why do some people believe this shit?



and (0.00 / 0)
even if you pass a single payer govt run plan if the insurance outfits have all the power they will decide who will run that govt plan, so they can run it into the ground-

even if we  regulate the shit out of private insurance, the private insurance will get to choose who and how the regulations are implemented, e.g. wall street 2008'

its all about who has and uses the power-you are right

whatever you think people owe you, that is what you owe people


Missing the forest for the trees (0.00 / 0)
How is it possible to believe that the corporations will have won if there is no public option, and fail to believe they already have won by dwindling the public option down from an initial plan to cover 130 million to the current 10 million?

It's not just the Blue Dogs who have sold out progressives on this, and abetted the debate's worst actors by failing to be truthful about the deficiencies of the public option as it stands today.

This party is headed on an express train to "Minority" fueled by the powerful combination of a weak, meaningless and more expensive public option coupled with an individual mandate, and the only people on the left who won't be to blame for failing to get off at the last stop before entering "Political Suicide" are the progressives who actually looked at the system map and saw it ran straight through "Delusion" and "Silence."

Enjoy saying "Speaker Boehner" and not far from now "Senate Majority Leader McConnell" man.  


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