Topic: Political and economic
About the health insurance reform bill now before the Senate, I have a question I'd like someone to answer:
How is the continuation of the insurance industry's antitrust exemption necessary to the preservation of a free market in insurance?
I thought the purpose of antitrust law was the preservation of a free market.
I suspect the answer is that, when politicians use the term "free market," they lie. The code words "free market" are a smokescreen; they do not mean what they say. What they really mean is not "free market," but "status quo."
The truth is that the health insurance market as it presently exists is not a free market at all. Entry to the market is carefully regulated by state insurance departments that are wholly-owned subsidiaries of the regulated industry, that are enforcing state laws written largely by the industry. The terms that will be offered to insureds are agreed upon in a formal oligopolistic fashion by the major insurance companies and their trade associations, then written into state laws and regulations. Risk rating practices and premiums are similarly a matter of open agreement within the industry. Real competition in these matters is strictly prohibited.
Therefore, it is clear that Senator Reid's version of health care reform is trying to give the industry the best of both worlds--and the consumer the worst of both worlds. We are all going to be required to buy health insurance, on whatever terms and at whatever premiums the industry itself decides together to give us. In the end, there will be no "public option" competing with ythe industry's offerings, and the existing "public options" for certain vulnerable groups (Medicare, Medicaid and VA) are all having their funding reduced to raise funds to support the insurance industry option.
Moreover, because the industry will retain its complete exemption from the antitrust laws, its decisions about what coverage it will offer in exchnge for its large new subsidy and at what price will be made entirely by the industry itself, behind closed doors, with ABSOLUTELY NO PUBLIC SCRUTINY. We can be sure that these decisions will be made in favor of maximizing short-term profits, not in favor of better or less expensive health care. The consumer will pay, not profit.
Of course, the consumer is an ordinary person with real needs, quite insignificant in comparison to a faceless corporate stockholder!
That's what the "free market" is all about, isn't it!