Insurance Industry Will Never Come to Terms with Healthcare Reform

Will the nation see healthcare reform by the end of summer? Although President Obama is confident he has a workable plan in place, most industry observers believe this latest attempt won’t fare any better than past attempts. “Obama Takes His Health Care Case to the Public,” New York Times.

The stalemate surrounds two issues. The first is the insurance industry’s refusal to consider the creation of a public insurance plan that would compete with the private sector. The industry has agreed to a compromise, which would mean more regulation of insurance premiums and insurer conduct. But we tend to think the industry will continue to fight any government intervention in how it does business.

The other issue involves eliminating the tax break on employer-provided plans. The compromise here might be a limited, less disruptive tax break, which Los Angeles Times columnist Ronald Brownstein says may be the trade off Americans are willing to make if it means slowing down the rise in healthcare costs. “In effect,” writes Brownstein, “limiting the tax exclusion would mean that those with coverage would be purchasing insurance for their insurance.” “Will Americans Buy a Healthcare Trade-Off?”

And then there’s Sen. Edward Kennedy’s bill that includes a long-term care provision that would make long-term care government-provided insurance available for $65 a month. The insurance would provide for modestly priced in-home care, not the more expensive nursing home care, and policyholders would have to pay into the system for five years before receiving benefits. “Senator Edward Kennedy Releases Health Care Bill; Includes Long-Term Care Provision.”
The likelihood of Kennedy’s bill making its way through Congress is negligible, since affordable long-term care insurance will be vigorously opposed the an industry that reaps considerable profits from sales of much more expensive policies. And that’s really the bottom line about why insurers will never support any substantial healthcare reform but will continue to oppose any meaningful legislation.

Insurers are in the business of making money, not providing healthcare. That’s why many companies delay and deny benefits or won’t even insure people who are ill. And they are doing so with little regulation and no competition. Why should they support change? The federal government wants to ensure that everyone in America has access to healthcare by creating affordable policies, while keeping down medical costs. Those two interests are counter to one another, and as long as the insurance industry has a dominate seat at the healthcare reform table, little will be accomplished.

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