- CRITTER TALK
by Dr Mark Bear
Let’s not forget how it was republicans who complained how the last bill was jammed through without giving the public a chance to review it, despite it taking over eighteen months to debate. However, what Republicans – like Speaker Ryan – tend to neglect telling the American people is precisely “why” Aetna withdrew from the exchanges, and understanding the why is just as tantamount to understanding the motivations behind the republican party’s persistent failure to disclose the reason.
Interestingly, Aetna Insurance’s CEO is repeating the exact same story, that is, “ObamaCare is in a death spiral.” According to Bertolini who made his remarks back in February at the Wall Street Journal’s the Future of Health Care event, the insurance company’s Chief Executive believes the risk pool is deteriorating, the funding mechanism is awash, and the premium model are all reasons for the supposed failure. However, according to PolitiFact, the Affordable Care Act is not in any “death spiral,” and they have rated both Ryan’s claim – and one can extrapolate also Bertolini’s statement as false.
In fact, PolitiFact Wisconsin goes out of their way to explain precisely why this is not the case; more people have gained coverage under the law, fewer people in this nation are uninsured with a mere – but significant amount – 8.9% of Americans still not having insurance, and then the fact-checking organization proceeds to explain exactly how this has been accomplished. Key to those factors are the ability of children to remain on their parent’s insurance plan until they reach the age of twenty-six, and insurance companies now mandated to no longer discriminate those who have pre-existing conditions. It is noteworthy to point out that PolitiFact also provides how the law has not been popular and the several promises which have not come to fruition, such as increased deductibles, a claim they rated previously as a “broken promise.”
What the fact-checking organization did not provide however, is what reasons exist for those deductibles to be increasing versus decreasing as was the original plan, due to the individual mandate, which just so happens to be the least popular part of the law. Remember: Under the current law the insurance companies are allowed to charge three times (the maximum amount allowed) they would originally charge as a means of mitigating for the losses incurred by insuring sick people, coupled with healthy individuals not signing up for coverage. In other words, if you tell an insurance company that they are able to charge three times the amount of their original costs – and do so under the auspices of allowing them to do so after they get a better look at their risk pool – one can nearly be assured the insurance companies – out of greed – will take advantage of the established maximum allowed by law. And before one blames the former president for this aspect of the law, one need remember that prior to the implementation of the law, insurance companies had no cap whatsoever, that is, they could charge whatever it was they wished, all under the auspices of capitalism and free trade.
In other words, the law is far from perfect but at least it has several benefits to it while remaining a starting point which legislators can actually build upon. The currently proposed plan by the Republican Party allows insurance companies to now charge five times the amount they would have charged all under the auspices of getting a glance at their risk pool, and increasing their rates, supposedly in accordance to the risk. However, how many of you believe the CEO’S of these insurance companies are not taking advantage of consistently charging the maximum amount allowed by law?
Second, the fact-checking organization does not take into account how people who are simply against the mandate – originally a Republican idea promoted by conservative think-tank “The Heritage Foundation” – are refusing to purchase it, readily accepting the penalty for not doing so. Some are doing so out of a supposed “religious conviction,” like Hobby Lobby due to the law allowing women to purchase contraceptives, while others accept the penalty over getting insured due to their faulty notion that should they participate they would be violating their “moral conscience.” Never mind that these same folks have no issue whatsoever paying for taxes which support their public schools, or get automotive coverage in accordance with their State, because in their minds this is socialism par excellence. Make no mistake that these same folks have no issue whatsoever with Medicare, Social Security, and other programs which benefit THEM, but this is just a bridge too far.
However, any person following politics closely realizes this has been the republican strategy since the Tea Party took over in 2010, and honestly one can make an argument that it has been a staple for many years now. Afterall, who can ever forget Ronald Reagan’s blatant lie about the “Welfare Queen?” It just seems that republicans have become more fond of this strategy in recent years, due to their stepping up their efforts. Remember the allegation and accompanying sound byte played across conservative media how the former President told business owners that “they didn’t build their business?” Or, how about the oft repeated charge that when former Secretary of State Clinton testified to the investigatory committee on Benghazi that she said, “What difference does it make.” In every one of these examples, the entire story was not shared with the viewing or listening audience, providing a mere sound byte that satisfied the ideological preference of conservatives. But democracy cannot function properly when the very people who send people to Washington do not have accurate information, can they? Which leads us right back to Aetna’s and Paul Ryan’s claim that “Obamacare is in a death spiral,” because this is not the rest of the story as Paul Harvey used to say.
So what is the rest of this story? Aetna – as conveyed in the link to the Washington Post above – shares how Humana Insurance Company and Aetna had a proposed merger. To be fair: Aetna was not the only insurer doing this, because Humana did the exact same thing. The problem was the Justice Department back in 2016 was filing suit against Aetna because according to Reuters, the merger would have been a violation of our antitrust laws. Interestingly, Humana was not the only insurer that Aetna had its eyes on, as there was also an attempt by Aetna to merge with Cigna. According to the federal government – rightfully – these mergers would have restricted competition in the marketplace. So how did Aetna respond to the looming lawsuit?
Simply put, they threatened the federal government by telling them they would pull out of the exchanges they had planned to expand into, if the federal government did not drop the lawsuit. However, this is not what the corporation was telling Americans now, is it? No! They said, the reason they were pulling out was due to the reasons I cite above, hardly true, and when one looks at the matter objectively, one readily sees that Aetna tried to “extort” the federal government.” In fact, according to the Los Angeles Times, a United States District Judge ruled, “Aetna tried to leverage its participation in the exchanges for favorable treatment from the Department of Justice regarding the proposed merger.”
THIS is why Paul Ryan, Aetna’s CEO, conservative lawmakers, and the conservative media entertainment complex do not need to be telling Americans that Aetna is an example of how “Obamacare is in a death spiral.” It simply is not true, and it misleads the American people, which while it fits their ideological narrative, does NOT fit the facts. In other words folks, THIS is the rest of the story!
Trump, while running, stated how he would be certain to provide insurance to everyone, and now the republican party has crafted legislation which already is predicted to leave the poorest from being insured, all the while providing CEO’S and the wealthiest a tax break. Older people will pay dearly should this bill become law, and again, the Affordable Care Act is far from being in a death spiral. But don’t tell that to the Republican Party!
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