Are health insurance companies pulling the wool over our progressive eyes?

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A core Democratic Party value, it seems, is to not talk about health insurance reform. This is at odds with the rapidly developing grassroots movement that insists that we talk about almost nothing but health insurance reform, until we get it fixed. And, for a majority of Americans, fixing it means going to a universal, single payer plan.

Clearly, there is something wrong, and since this is not a mystery novel, I’ll tell you right up front what it might be. It appears that the health insurance industry has hijacked the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) into favoring Democratic Party candidates that are not in favor of rapid deployment of a single payer system.

Is it true that Americans currently prefer single payer? Yes, and this has been true for at least a year.

A June, 2017 poll by the Pew Research Center showed that 60% of Americans want the Government (that would be the “single payer”) to be responsible for covering health insurance premiums.

A Harvard-Harris Poll done in September 2017 indicated that 52% of all Americans want a single payer plan. About 70% of democrats support it, and 65% of Republicans oppose it. Independents were shown to be about 50%-50%. For a major issue like this, this counts as winnable support. A different poll, by Politico, indicated that 49% favor single payer while 35% oppose it, indicating a similar level of support.

More recent polling shows these numbers to be holding or increasing in favor of single payer. How many people prefer a single payer plan depends on if it is called “single payer” or something else (“medicare for all” plays even better)

Every industrialized nation in the world has single payer health care, except for the United States. Americans pay something like three times the cost for health care as other countries, and for the most part we do not get better services. Approximately one third of the excess costs of health care in the US, paid by people either in premiums, co-payments, direct payments, or taxes that cover the uninsured, is paid to the insurance companies just to do the job of moving money around and being extremely annoying. Another third is to pay for extraordinary costs such as grossly overpaid specialists and very expensive pharmaceuticals. Another third is keeping up the shiny parts of our system. We pay extra to have more single or double occupancy hospital rooms, really nice birthing facilities, great lobbies, all that.

So yes, Americans have “deluxe” health care. But beware the concept of “deluxe.” Often, the deluxe version of a product is simply the one they charge more for, and maybe stick a fancy ribbon on, but that is otherwise no different. We get average heath care with a few amenities that have little to do with actual health, pay three times as much for it, and in so doing, prop up an industry that is so fat with our funds that it did not suffer ill effects during the Republican Recession.

And now, progressive politicians around the country are running on the “single payer” platform, and we are begining to fight over it, about it, and oddly, even with it. For example, Rebecca Otto, running for Governor in Minnesota, has a single payer plan that totally cuts out the insurance companies. Cutting out the insurance companies is such a desired outcome among voters, that when activists who disagreed with the widely popular candidate on other issues wanted to land a punch, they spread false rumors that the Otto single payer plan used insurance companies (it does not). Point is, single payer is so important to people that they are starting to use it to try to win fights.

But I digress. Let’s get on to the part that smells somewhere in Denmark. Here is what happened.

First, a bunch of people got filthy rich selling healthcare insurance.

Then, everybody, but especially Democrats, wanted to cut the insurance companies out and save everyone a bundle, and reduce the chance that a family would have to make some horrific decision on health because the soul-less greedy insurance companies put some plan limit on important services.

Then, recently, a handful of insurance companies hired an insurance industry connected polling firm to carry out an utterly bogus and invalid poll that could be nefariously misconstrued to suggest, in opposition to all the known valid research, that voters do not want single payer.

The poll asked the open ended question, “If you could change one thing about your healthcare, or heath insurance, what would it be?”

Respondents, allowed to say only one thing, mostly said “make it cheaper.” Only 12 percent said, specifically, “make it single payer.” No actual professionally done poll would have asked such an open ended question, and no legit pollster would ever tell a client, based on this poll, that only 12 percent of Americans want single payer. And, nobody with two neurons to rub together would hear that statement and believe it, especially if they were tasked with routing hundreds of millions of dollars of donated money to support political campaigns, based on that information.

But that is what actually happened. This poll was used to manipulate the preternaturally hapless and embarrassingly ineffective Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to preferentially fund candidates that were soft on, or even opposed to, single payer.

The memo provided to the DCCC said,

The American people overwhelmingly want Congress to improve the Affordable Care Act, not repeal it or replace it with something radically different. We need to offer reasonable solutions to improve the law instead of a massive overhaul.

That was a lie promulgated by agents of the health care insurance industry to shape Democratic party politics in a way that served them but that was distinctly different from what Democrats actually wanted.

The characterization of Americans as, essentially, opposing a modern civilized health insurance system is patently untrue, and clearly designed to steer the DCCC to support candidates that would be favorable to maintaining the the health of the insurance companies, rather than the people.

The analysis was done by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and GBA Strategies, with Stan Greenberg at the helm of the polling.

According to The Intercept,

Greenberg is the spouse of Connecticut Democratic Rep. Rosa Delauro. She is not one of the 121 House Democrats who back the single-payer legislation before Congress, and one of only 11 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who did not sign the bill.

In a comment to The Intercept, Greenberg noted that Alan Quinlan, a partner at his firm, led the work on the poll. On the firm’s website, Quinlan lists Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan as one of his former clients.

Which candidate in your state or district is running on a pure single payer platform, vs. some alternative? Please report back in the comments!

Sources on polling data:

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6 thoughts on “Are health insurance companies pulling the wool over our progressive eyes?

  1. Yeah, one of the most successful lies the right sold people after the health care act passed was that it was a government takeover of all things health related and took decisions and pricing policy decisions away from the doctors and insurance companies. That, coupled with the almost universally complete tossing of roadblocks in its way effectively handcuffed it from the git-go.

    And all because:

    – a plan that was essentially the one the Heritage Foundation developed in the 1990s in opposition to the one they fantasized the Clintons would develop, and essentially the same one Romney implemented when he was governor, was pushed into law by the noted evil uppity black guy in the White House
    – modern Republicans are rabidly opposed to the group of people the act was primarily designed to help

  2. Great analysis. Lots of stuff I didn’t know. I worry about candidates like Dean Phillips running against single-payer. I think he is blind to his own bias, which is huge. Just like all the “United States of Care” candidates that are funded by the insurance industry to sabotage single-payer. They talk about putting health care over politics, and being bipartisan. Check out this PDF:
    They literally say, without irony, “The work begins now. We know it will not be easy, and it will not be quick, but United States of Care has a goal to make a lasting change within the next decade and make progress along the way.” They’ve created a new industry of health care reform. Their founder at the same time created a for-profit fun to invest in companies that make money off the medicaid population. A complete conflict of interest that will forever prevent them from supporting single-payer.

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