UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

June 16, 2009

KEY NUMBERS TO REMEMBER IN THE HEALTHCARE DEBATE

Robert Parry, Op Ed News - To understand the financial stakes involved in the battle over U.S. health-care reform, it's useful to keep two numbers in mind: 50 million and 119 million.

The first number is the approximate total of Americans without health insurance, a new market that the private health insurance industry is salivating to get its hands on. The industry's hope is that the government will mandate that those Americans sign up for private insurance and offer subsidies for those who can't afford to pay the premiums.

Fifty million new customers and government largesse to help pay the bills would be a huge windfall for the insurance industry, which otherwise faces a decline in its market because baby boomers are reaching the age to qualify for Medicare and because rising unemployment is draining the pool of Americans who have insurance through their employers.

So, as Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. noted, the 50 million potential customers explain why the insurance companies have been so eager to sit down at the reform table.

"Their public-spiritedness reflects enlightened self-interest," Dionne wrote. "Health-care reform could bail out these interests by adding the currently uninsured--fast approaching 50 million people--to their customer base and by preventing more individuals and employers from dropping insurance altogether."

But Dionne and other mainstream analysts miss the significance of the other number--119 million--and why it is even a more powerful incentive for private insurers to have the ear of key members of Congress and White House insiders. It is the figure that the industry and its backers cite as the potential exodus of disaffected customers to a public health insurance option.

The industry's curious argument is that so many Americans would bolt to a government-run program that the option simply can't be allowed. . .

Though some analysts question the 119 million estimate, it has transformed the debate over health-care reform into something of a death match for the private insurance industry, especially because it's a good bet that many of the 50 million uninsured also would opt for a public plan, since they've been heartlessly left out in the cold by the private industry.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

<< Home