Health Insurers Like it When They Get More Customers

Liz Fowler is senior counselor to Senator Max Baucus with a focus on health care policy, so I’m not sure it should be judged a huge scoop that it’s her name that’s on the metadata of Baucus’ health care outline. Marcy Wheeler further comments:

What neither Politico nor Bad Max himself want you to know, though, is that in the two years before she came back to the Senate to help Max craft the Max Tax plan, she worked as VP for Public Policy and External Affairs at WellPoint.

So to the extent that Liz Fowler is the Author of this document, we might as well consider WellPoint its author as well.

I think that’s a pretty good way of thinking about this — Baucus has given us the kind of universal health care plan that the VP for Public Policy at a health insurance company could love. The question is how bad is that?


To try to think this through, consider a plan to improve bus service in New York City. Well, for starters you would want the buses to run more frequently. That would require, among other things, additional buses and additional bus drivers. That’s something the union representing bus drivers would like, and also something that companies that build buses would like. You could even imagine such a plan being hatched in close collaboration with the Transit Worker’s Union and the insidious forces of Big Bus. That, however, wouldn’t make the plan bad for New York City bus riders. It would be good for New York City bus riders. The city would be using tax dollars to give more buses to bus riders — it’s win-win for bus riders and bus drivers and bus makers all.

Now think about health care. The Center for American Progress offers me some pretty good health insurance through CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. That’s pretty good for CareFirst. If CAP dropped its health plan, CareFirst would lose money. We’d be sticking it to the insurance industry. On the other hand, I’d also lose my health insurance. Which would be kind of unfortunate for me. But say CAP did decide to stick it to CareFirst by dropping my insurance. Now as an uninsured American, I can live in one of two universes. In one universe, the one we live in, it’s just not feasible to buy comprehensive health insurance on the individual market. That’s bad for me. In another universe, the one Max Baucus wants us to live in, the government will regulate the individual insurance market in a way that ensures that purchasing comprehensive individual health insurance is possible. He’s also going to make sure that many people (I make too much money though, so not me) get financial assistance from the government in order to make it more possible to afford insurance.

This Baucusverse is, I would say, better for me than the current reality. It’s also better for CareFirst. CareFirst is basically getting a new customer. So good for them. But I’m also getting a new health insurer, so good for me. Now we could stick it to CareFirst by just enrolling me in a government plan and giving me coverage directly. Bad for CareFirst, but great for me. Alternatively, we could stick it to CareFirst by making it the case that I go uninsured and they lose a customer. That’s bad for CareFirst, but also pretty bad for me.