Los Angeles Times reporter Michael Hiltzik once again comes out fighting on the side of consumers in his March 9 column examining an insurance industry trade group’s policy brochure purporting to support universal healthcare and the Obama Administration’s plan to improve the system. “Health Insurers Pay Lip Service to Reform.”
But before inviting us to celebrate the industry’s 180-degree turnaround, Hiltzik examined the fine print and spoke to a number of industry observers who convinced him American Health Insurance Plans is only repackaging its same old proposals to transfer the cost of care for the sickest people to taxpayers and to gain freedom from “pesky state regulations limiting their freedom.”
“Veterans of earlier healthcare battles justly wonder if the industry is merely trying to get out in front of the parade, the better to lead it into a dead end,” Hiltzik writes.
Meanwhile, as Hiltzik reports, doctors “split their working hours 50-50 between seeing patients and dickering with insurance companies over claims and preauthorizations.” That’s a travesty!
We agree with Hiltzik that insurance industry healthcare “reforms” can’t be trusted. No matter what federal legislation eventually becomes law – and we’re not holding our breaths in anticipation – state regulators are charged with much more than standing on curb watching the parade. They need to get strong where they have been lax in regulating this industry and then stay on top of it.
During the next election cycle, California will elect a new insurance commissioner. Whoever is willing to take on the insurance industry and transform that office will likely be hailed as a hero all along Main Street. But he or she needs to act soon, before the sun sets and all the parade-goers straggle home.