This Just In: Health Insurers Raise Premiums!

Obamacare can't kick in soon enough

Anybody who thinks Obamacare is a bad idea should be sentenced to read this story from Saturday’s New York Times. It helpfully explains how health insurance companies, in their third year now of record-breaking profits, are asking for double-digit premium increases because you and I and Joe next door have stopped getting the health care we need because we can’t afford it. Got that?

No? Let me go over it again. Because our deductibles and co-pays have gotten so high, and because health care is so incredibly expensive, we’re not getting the colonoscopies and mammograms and other preventive tests we need to keep from dying. This means insurance companies make more money, since they don’t have to pay for these tests. BUT! With the economy making a fitful stab at recovering from its doldrums—and with more and more of us staring at that spot on our neck in the mirror and wondering if hey, maybe it could be melanoma, and it’s been there for an awfully long time now, and maybe we really should see a doctor about it even if we can’t afford it—the insurers are scared that we WILL start going to doctors, and they won’t be able to keep making record-setting profits, so just in case, they’re asking for big increases in premiums. In Oregon, Blue Cross/Blue Shield wants to raise prices a neat 22 percent. Because! We could start going to the doctor when we need to again!

I find this oddly reminiscent of oil-industry pricing. When gas prices go up, as they inevitably do, we’re always given the same laundry list of reasons—seasonal cleaning of tanks, seasonal adjustment of additives, unrest (or potential unrest) in the Middle East—to explain the increases. The real reason oil companies raise prices is the same reason health insurers do—because they can, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

America’s health care system is way too focused on outcomes and not focused enough on prevention. It’s cheaper to ward off disease in the first place than to buy a super-duper shiny new gamma knife or da Vinci robotic surgery system. But every hospital wants a gamma knife and a da Vinci, because the hospital down the street has one, dammit, so we should have one too! Meantime, pregnant women go without prenatal exams, poor families clog emergency rooms with non-emergencies, and if that spot on your neck is cancer, it will have spread to your lymph nodes by the time you finally have it seen. Then you’ll die, and that will save the insurance company money, too.

But that’s capitalism, right? Capitalism’s what made this nation great! And Obamacare—that’s socialism. Socialism is bad. Let’s just keep going the way we are, because it’s working so well.