A Plague on the House of the Health Insurance Industry

The national debate over the future of health care in this country has – to say the least – been contentious. Emotions on both sides have run high. From “tea parties” to television commercials, those for and against the “reform” of health care have battled as if the right to a healthy life were at stake; and for many it is. As with most emotional debates, both sides have thrown around significantly more disinformation than fact. Both sides are guilty of exhibiting two traits unique to the human nature – hypocrisy and duplicity. Along with these charming attributes, the opposing sides have mixed in copious amounts of fear-mongering and demagoguery. And then, some just lie.

No one is without stain in this debate. Joe Lieberman is an honest and respected senator from Connecticut who actually favors health care reform, but even his character failed in this debate. During his last campaign for the Senate, a television interview shows him calling for reform of health care by expanding Medicare coverage to individuals younger than age 65. Then, when the health care bill was down to the final vote, Senator Lieberman said he would not vote for the bill if it included expanded Medicare coverage. (He must have drunk too much of the tea!) How about a Senator like Ben Nelson of Nebraska who would not vote for the health care bill unless it contained a “bribe” for his state? It may not be fair to highlight the actions of these two politicos – especially when there are those who took much more egregious actions – but it does demonstrate the depth to which this debate has warped the senses and sensibilities of many.

These are just a couple of examples of how the debate over health care reform has become discombobulated. However, they don’t even come close to the shenanigans and immoral – if not dishonest – actions of one group opposed to health care reform.

The health insurance companies of America stand out above (or below, depending on your perspective) others when it comes to exhibiting all the things that are bad in the health care debate. This group is — purely and simply — self-serving, conniving and consciously mendacious to the point of being gross. The health insurance industry certainly had the right to oppose actions of the government that they felt would be injurious to their well-being. But to exercise that right as deceitfully as they have is unconscionable – a new low, even for insurance people.

Consider the despicable health insurance industry tactic of spreading those fear-mongering stories about “death panels” and painted President Obama as the Grim Reaper. You remember that one. The health insurance industry seized on a small section of the bill (one that was added by a Republican no less) that established an opportunity for those nearing death and their families to receive counseling. The panel had nothing to do with the government deciding who would or would not receive treatment, but that made no difference to the conniving health insurance executives and politicians like Sarah Palin who jumped on this provision with glee and portrayed these proposed panels like they were reincarnations of the Nazi death squads.

In another prong of its deceitful attack on health care reform, the health insurance companies propagated the fear that having the government involved in health care would mean that treatments would be “rationed.” It is not surprising that the health insurance companies would jump on this approach as they had a good deal of experience in the area. The companies knew how the consumer would react to the idea of rationing health care because they have been experts at the practice for decades.

Think about it. Not only have health insurance companies been the sole arbiters with the power to decide who, what, when and at what price people would receive health coverage, but the number of fines paid by companies for failing to pay claims on benefits promised, demonstrated they would gladly ration benefits even for those “covered.” It is this system of allowing the private companies to “ration” health care that is at the root of the health care problems today. It was good strategy for the health insurance industry to try to turn weakness into strength by claiming that a government plan of health care would “ration” benefits, but it is the utmost in callous disregard for the truth.

As dishonest as these approaches may have been, they pale by comparison to the terrorist-like tactics the health insurance companies employed to defeat health care reform. During the early stages of the debate, the health insurance industry approached the Obama administration and offered to cooperate in the effort to find workable solutions to the health care crisis. However, once inside the tent, and accepted as a supposed ally, the health insurance industry then surreptitiously did what they could to hamper health care reform.

They accomplished this by surreptitiously laundering over $30 million dollars through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to run negative and misleading ads about health care reform. The health insurance industry did not have the guts or integrity to stand up and fight in the open. They demonstrated no concern—except for themselves and their profits.

The irony is that if the health insurance industry had been smart and above-board, they could have actually taken a leadership role in health care reform and carved out a significant and profitable place in the market. But, they were too short-sighted to understand that. Not for the position they took, but because of the dishonest tactics used, a plague should descend on the house of the health insurance industry; their future should be rationed and controlled by a death panel.

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