If you've been paying attention to the language that the president and Democratic leaders have used over the last couple weeks, you would notice a subtle but important change in tone. It's no longer "health care" reform but "health insurance" reform. In fact, it's part of a larger strategy in which insurance companies are demonized by the White House and the Democratic leadership. Here's Speaker Pelosi referring to health insurance companies as "evil" and proclaiming that they are "carpet bombing" the bill.
The President has made a significant part of all town halls stories about how health insurance companies have cut off insurance during times when people are dying. In fact, his stump speech is the story about how his mom was arguing with her insurance company from the hospital as she lay near death.
In his town hall today from Montana, according to Fox News, the words "health insurance" was uttered by him 57 times. So, it's clear there's a change in tactic. The Democrats have decided to pick a villain and that villain is the health insurance companies. Their talking points are now that no longer will anyone be cut off due to "pre existing conditions", preventative care will be covered, and of course health insurance will be kept "honest" by the public option.
Now, I am all for making the health insurance companies the villains because they deserve it. I've spoken with dozens of doctors and each and every one of them says that there are few entities in the world more corrupt than insurance companies. There's no question that they game the system far too often. There's no question that they are getting fat and wealthy at the expense of doctors and patients. So, if you're going to pick a villain, the insurance companies are a perfect villain.
That said this strategy is desperate and ultimately it will fail. First, at the same time the president is demonizing the insurance companies, he's also proclaiming that if you like your insurance you will keep it under his plan. That's because about 90% of Americans have health insurance and out of those about that many are happy with their insurance. So, at the same time he's demonizing the insurance companies, he's assuring most Americans that he won't take away insurance that they have with these evil doers. That's simply not tennable.
More than that, the House bill is over 1000 pages. If this were merely abut reforming health insurance companies the bill would be 50 pages. There'd be no references to "advanced care planning consultations". There'd be no references to salary standards for doctors. There are 53 new regulatory bodies in the House bill. Do we really need 53 new regulatory bodies just to keep health insurance companies on a short leash?
So, the problem for the president and his colleagues is that the message doesn't jive with the legislation. If all he wanted to do was make sure that pre existing conditions didn't eliminate someone from receiving health insurance, the bill wouldn't be very controversial. The president seems to think that if he says enough stories about Americans that had a nightmare experience with their insurance company that we'd all be convinced that's all the bill will do. Unfortunately for the president, some of us have looked inside the legislation and we realize this is a lot more than merely putting the foot down on the insurance companies.
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