One of the most common right-wing memes used by opponents of health care reform is that progressive solutions to America’s health care problems place “Washington bureaucrats firmly between you and your doctor.” Again and again, conservatives have deployed this meme to demagogue the health care debate.
However, the reality is there already is someone standing between you and your doctor: health insurance companies. Single mother Ellen Hayden knows this from experience. After losing her mother at the age of 7 from breast cancer, Hayden has done everything she can to get regular mammograms. Following an abnormal mammogram, her doctor recommended that she have an MRI. After the scan, her insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield, refused to pay for the procedure and is also refusing to pay for a follow-up second MRI her doctor has suggested.
Ned Helms, a former health insurance industry executive who now works at the University of New Hampshire, told Sea Coast Online that this is Hayden’s case is an example of “insurance people” getting between patients and their doctors:
“It’s understandable that this is an emotional issue because most patients believe that ‘nothing is going to stand between me and what I want to get done,’” said Ned Helms, a former health insurance industry executive and director of the N.H. Institute of Health Policy and Practice at the University of New Hampshire. [...]
“We have this notion in our political debate and popular culture that we can’t have reform because that means that government bureaucrats will make decisions but we already have insurance people playing that role,” said Helms
Helms went on to say that one of the major obstacles to attaining proper reform is the way insurance companies often “write their own rules for the road.” Late last year, former Cigna executive Wendell Potter left his 15-year career at the major health insurer and joined the fight for universal health care. He told Bill Moyers last July that politicians who warn about the government getting between patients and their doctors are “ideologically aligned with the [health insurance] industry.”