Opinion

Obamacare Still Enriching Insurance Companies

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Posted: Jan 29, 2020 12:01 AM
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Obamacare Still Enriching Insurance Companies

Source: AP Photo/Larry Downing, Pool

As a conservative, you might want to stay mad at the insurance companies, because they are still gaming the system to make even more money off of Obamacare.  Right now, they are supporting legislation that will help health insurance companies to make even more money while harming doctors, patients and service providers.

The lead trade group for health insurers, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), were critical in helping to get Obamacare passed. They loved the idea of the federal government mandating that all Americans be forced to purchase their product. Healthcare Finance reported on March 23, 2012, “in March 2009, AHIP President Karen Ignagni told President Obama: ‘We hear the American people about what's not working. We've taken that very seriously. You have our commitment to play, to contribute, and to help pass health care reform this year.’"  Now they are working Congress again to use a crisis over “surprise medical billing” to pass legislation that allows them to make even more money in the future.

The issue of surprise medical billing has become the latest shiny object for Congress, yet health insurance companies have found a way to shift blame to put the burden on doctors and providers.  The problem is that insurance companies are the problem. They have successfully used an army of lobbyists to get members to embrace socialist price controls as a solution when they created the problem.

The health insurance industry supported change to health care law created by President Barack Obama increased premiums and helped the companies to make record profits. In September of 2019, the Trump Administration’s CMS (Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services) posted a blog that concluded “when President Trump took office in 2017, average individual market health insurance premiums in states using HealthCare.gov had already doubled when compared to 2013, the year before Obamacare’s main regulations took effect.” In 2018, the “average premiums went up by another 26%” and the prices were characterized as “spiking.” Many Americans had to drop coverage because they were paying high out of pocket expenses and could not afford the inflated prices.

While health insurers made massive profits from the spike in premiums, they also drafted up narrowed coverage to make it harder for patients to get insurance companies to pick up the tab for health care services. Health insurance companies love collecting inflated prices for coverage and they have found innovative ways to avoid paying for services by making coverage sparse. Now they are advocating for price controls that will shift cost from them, the creators of the problem, to doctors, providers and patients. Congress is close to considering legislation that will do more harm than good and further benefit insurance companies.

A number of conservative groups are opposing legislation sponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) that would impose price controls on the industry and get the U.S. one step closer to a single-payer system.  The Hill reported on January 19, 2020, “conservative groups are gearing up for battle with GOP leaders over bipartisan health care legislation that lawmakers view as one of the few election-year bills that has a shot at making it to President Trump’s desk.” The bill uses something called “benchmarking” to impose price controls on services when out of the network of health insurance companies. 

It is no secret that health care is the most profitable industry in the U.S., surpassing tech, construction, retail and manufacturing. Three of the top 10 largest companies by revenue are in healthcare, including UnitedHealth Group, McKesson and CVS Health. The UnitedHealth Group is a managed health care company that pulled in $226.2 billion in 2018, according to Fortune. Health care insurance is a big winner in this crony fight to use Congress to shift cost away from insurance companies.

The core problem of surprise medical billing is that insurance companies draw their own networks and coverage in a way that makes it hard for their own clients to collect.  The coverage is purposely confusing making it hard to ever get the insurance companies to pay out for claims. When you go to the hospital, you see a number of different doctors and the insurance companies have made sure that virtually none of the people you see are covered by their plans.  They know they lose money when they actually have to pay out for expensive care, therefore they do everything they can to avoid covering it. 

The bottom line is that the legislation proposed by Sens. Alexander and Murray is geared towards making the same health insurance companies that paved the way for Obamacare make more money thanks to price controls.  If this bad idea becomes law, the U.S. will be one step closer to the Socialist single-payer system that has destroyed the European health care model.