Senator Harkin: Fair

February 13th, 2009

160px-tom_harkin_official_portraitI find myself not too happy with Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today. It appears that on Wednesday he went on to the liberal talk radio show of Bill Press and said?

BILL PRESS:? Alright, well good for you. You know, we gotta work on that, because they are just shutting down progressive talk from one city after another. All we want is, you know, some balance on the airwaves, that’s all. You know, we’re not going to take any of the conservative voices off the airwaves, but just make sure that there are a few progressives and liberals out there, right?

SENATOR TOM HARKIN (D-IA): Exactly, and that’s why we need the fair — that’s why we need the Fairness Doctrine back.


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Posts Tagged ‘nonprofit alternative to health care’

The Open Market Option

One of the biggest problems I see within the nation?s health insurance industry is lack of competition. In 2007 the American Medical Association released it?s last update to it?s report on Competition with in the Health Insurance market and it gave a rather grim picture.

For example?

Here in Iowa, Wellmark was reported to control 71% of the state market, with United Health Care (John Deere) the next highest in market share with 9%. While I?m no expert in business, a 71% market share sure seems like having the ability to basically set your own rules with very little care or concern about consumers.

While just about everyone agrees that there must be some sort of health care reform and soon, few can agree on how that should be done. Some argue that the best way to encourage competition within the health insurance market is to lift the limitation and allow consumers to cross state lines to purchase their health care policies. While at first glance this seems like a great idea and a workable one at that, there are some hidden problems that this unleashes.

Currently each state regulates the health insurance industries within the respective states. Groups who argue that the federal government has no constitutional authority to regulate health insurance companies often site states rights and the 10th amendment. Many of these same people are also in favor of allowing consumers to buy their insurance across state lines. While I personally haven?t entirely made up my mind on whether or not that would be a good way to go it there are a couple of possible results from this that don?t really sit well with me.

First of all, while allowing people to buy insurance across state lines would create a burst of competition in the short term, in the long term it doesn?t address the history of unregulated mergers and acquisitions that up until now have only really been contained by the state line rules. So instead of having monopolistic companies on the state level, we could quickly end up with them on the national level. How long would it be before a company like Wellmark controls 71% of the health care market nationwide? Should we really accept a short term fix that creates a long term problem?

Secondly, allowing people to buy insurance across state lines, effectively robs the states of regulating the health insurance markets within their states. Mirroring what happened with credit card companies, health insurance companies would quickly seek out the state or states with the fewest regulations and move there. So if for example, Texas has the fewest regulations on health insurance and all of the companies move there, then Texas state health insurance regulation agency is effectively setting the regulation policy for the entire nation, and what is good for Texas may not necessarily be good for Iowa.

As I?ve stated before, I do not support HR3200 (Open Congress) and I also do not support the plan that was put out by Max Bacaus in the senate. Both of them contain a mandate the requires all Americans to get health insurance regardless of whether they can actually afford it or not and if they don?t get the insurance they face a significant tax penalty of about 2.5% of their income. In my opinion what this does is create an artificial victory that Democrats will be able to point at in 2012 or beyond and allows them to claim that their health care plan worked because the lowered the number of people that are uninsured, which would be true only because they took away the choice of the people to make the decision of whether or not to get insurance away from them without actually fixing anything within the system. The Bacaus plan is even worse, because it contains the mandate but not the public insurance option. At least in HR3200, there is a public insurance option that gives consumers a tool to force insurance companies to lower premiums to something that is reasonable and affordable to working class people, you know, those of us making less than 50k a year and for who an insurance premium of $500 a month is not affordable.

My views on the public insurance option have changed somewhat since my review of HR3200 at the end of July. I currently see it as a tool to be used to get to the ultimate goal. I am no longer convinced it is the best option, but I have yet to see any options that feel are better.

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