Insurance Companies Remind Public Why We Hate Them

Bill Scher

Just as the Senate Finance Committee is about to pass a health care bill without a public option, the insurance lobby’s last-minute hissy fit exposed the weakness of its argument against a public option.

America’s Health Insurance Plans, the main insurance lobby organization, released a report projecting a rise in annual premiums for the average family from $12,300 today to $25,900 in 2019 if the Senate Finance Committee version becomes law.

That version has an individual mandate to buy private health insurance — albeit with lighter penalties than initially proposed, the report’s complaint — but it does not have a public option that competes with private health insurance.

The insurance industry is acting as if these price spikes would just magically happen after the bill becomes law, not acknowledge that it sets the costs of premiums.

Notably, one word is missing from the report: profit.

The whole point of a public option is its ability to set a lower cost of premiums, and force private insurers to reduce costs in areas such as fat executive salaries in order to remain competitive.

Yet the insurance lobby decided to remind the public, at a critical point in the health care debate, that it’s been gouging them for years, and plans to gouge them some more.

Premiums have already risen 131% over the last ten years, and now they are promising another 111% increase.

The methodology arguing private insurers will have no choice but to raise prices is flawed. But it is a stark reminder that private insurers will be able to do what they want, and raise prices on the flimsiest of predicates.

If there is no strong public option, in the end, private insurers will be able to do what they want, and you won’t have a choice.

So thank you insurance lobby, for letting the public know what the status quo will be like without giving people the choice of a public plan.

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