Last night, CAPAF Senior Fellow Elizabeth Edwards appeared on The Daily Show with John Stewart to discuss her new book Resilience and health care reform. Edwards stressed the importance of restoring competition in health insurance markets noting that at one point, “the President of UnitedHealth made so much money, that one of every $700 that was spent in this country on health care went to pay him”:
It’s really important, and this is the part I’m afraid will get negotiated away. We have to have a public provider. That is, instead of buying your insurance from United Health Care, or from Blue Cross. You could actually pick a government provider. The insurance companies are against it because they don’t want that competition. And because they’re afraid of the threat of the competition they’re already saying we’re going to cut prices, we’re going to make this so much easier to get. Just the threat, so imagine what the reality will do. We will actually have health costs that could work.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||M – Th 11p / 10c|
Indeed, as a new report by Health Care for America NOW points out, “profits at 10 of the country’s largest publicly-traded health insurance companies in 2007, rose 428 percent from 2000 to 2007, from $2.4 billion to $12.9 billion.” In 2007, the chief executive officers at these companies collected combined total compensation of $118.6 million — an average of $11.9 million each.”
Competition from a new public health care plan would require private insurers to negotiate prices on behalf of their enrollees and not just pass along ever-growing health care costs to beneficiaries in the form of higher premiums. Insurer opposition to the public health option is an attempt to protect industry profits, plain and simple and in the coming health care debate, policy makers will have a choice to make: design a system that promotes the general welfare, by providing Americans the choice of a public option, or protect the monopoly of private insurers and continue redistributing as much income as possible to private industry.