Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A 50 billion dollar stimulus package that won't cost taxpayers a dime

Impossible to believe? Could we really dump 50 billion dollars into the economy without creating an equal 50 billion dollar tax burden on hard-working American citizens?

Sure. Just eliminate the anti-trust exemption for health insurance corporations.

Actually, that's not quite accurate. It wouldn't be 50 billion dollars. It would be 50 billion dollars per year. That's the amount of extra scratch insurance companies are estimated to be gouging out of Americans' pockets because of the exemption, and all for the privilege of having bean-counters interpose themselves between us and our doctors.

Had enough? I have. And so has Virgina Representative Tom Perriello. Next week he is expecting to introduce a bill that would eliminate the health insurance industry's "we're-so-special" anti-trust exemption.

Keep in mind, this exemption allows that one industry to do what no other (excepting possibly Major League Baseball, which is certainly not in the same need-to-have category no matter how much you might enjoy our Nation's Pastime) industry can: collude in back-room dealings where they decide how to fix prices across the portions of the marketplace that each one controls.

For everybody else, this is flat-out illegal. For instance: in the 1990s, agro-giant Archer Daniels Midland got busted in a worldwide collusion and price-fixing scheme over the food additive lysine. ADM settled out of court, paying the government a hundred million dollars in fines. That was still real money back then.

Health insurance companies have shown what they'll do when they don't have to follow the ordinary rules of capitalism: they'll pick your pocket with relentless, year-after-year rate hikes that seem attributable to no cause other than padding their profit margins. They'll drop you if you get sick and ask to have some of your premium dollars returned to you in the form of actual coverage. They'll defer preventative care so long as you're young and healthy, because by the time you turn 65 and the effects of not having had preventative care kick in--in the form of cancers that weren't detected early enough, diabetes that could have been prevented, et cetera--you'll be on Medicare and they won't have to pay for you.

They can get away with it because they don't truly have to compete with one another. And why should they complete when they can all just get together, en masse, and decide to raise their prices? They won't, so long as they have that exemption.

So kudos to Tom Perriello for taking the gloves off. What a perfect hat-trick of a bill. In one fell swoop, it would give that 50 billion back to the Americans who earned it, it would fix one of the most serious root-causes of our health care crisis, while also providing an absolutely stark, clear-cut, either/or litmus test for every member of the House and Senate: whose side are you on?

If you're on the side of your constituents, you have no choice but to support the bill. If you're on the side of corporate donors, you'll oppose it. It's that simple. There is literally no reason to oppose the Perriello bill unless you think the needs of health insurance corporations outweigh the needs of the very citizens those corporations claim (ha ha) they exist to support.

None at all.

Stick it to 'em, Tom. I'll be watching this vote with great interest.


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