And we can get on to other issues. This whole thing went on way, way too long, and I for one am relieved that it is finally over. What we got: an end to denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions and the other worst abuses of health insurance companies. These sketchy tricks were really too atrocious, even for the US Congress.
Or is it the end? My understanding of the bill is that now we’re all going to be required to buy insurance, which creates an even bigger market for insurance companies. Which means they grow.
All in all, this move seems to resemble the sort of regulation that was taking hold in the first decades of the 20th century in other areas – such as transportation and utilities. But instead of guaranteeing an individual company, like, say, Entergy Corporation, a monopoly, we’ve guaranteed an industry a monopoly on the American public.
Which means that they’ll still be here to screw us, any way that they can. As I learned at the age of 14 when my family had to sue to get our insurance company to pay for our house, which was destroyed in the 1989 earthquake, insurance companies don’t make money by paying on claims.
This is the problem with regulation and other corporatist and mildly social-democratic solutions that do not embrace nationalization. You can’t “file their nails and let them live” like Huey Long tried to do with the bankers and the oil companies. Like the banks and the oil companies, health insurance companies are aggressive parasites, and will take more and more power when you aren’t looking. As the corporations have generally done in the last 45 years since LBJ’s Great Society.
Side note – one of the stranger aspects of this whole debate was Tea Partiers complaining about the threat to Medicare. Please, some ideological consistency. I thought you guys opposed big government? What is more social-democratic big government than Medicare? The right fought Medicare bitterly in ’65 as being socialist and now the Tea Party is claiming to be its defender? The lesson here is that when people get successful socialist policies and institutions (the fire department, anyone?), they cling to them desperately, even when they don’t understand them.
Let me be clear. I don’t believe in entirely eliminating the market. But as long as you have big companies who make money off of destroying our land, stealing our homes and not paying on claims, you have a problem. And one that only gets worse as they get richer and consolidate power.
However, it is important to realize that change has rarely come overnight in America. The American system has proven to be remarkably resilient and flexible. We don’t have revolutions every fifty years like some countries. Reversing the tide of free-market fundamentalism is going to take time. We aren’t going to get a single payer system in America without a major change in the dynamics of power, which means people re-learning how to organize like we did in the 1930′s. A few people shouting in the streets never cut it, and certainly not against the power of big business in 2010 America.
Will this lead to a public option? Who knows. For now, I’m just hoping that we can move back to energy legislation and get a national renewable portfolio standard, so we can start to address our tragic addiction to fossil fuels. Obama has won a victory, and that is good for all of us, because within the limited options of our national political system, the other option – a strategic win for big insurance and the Republicans – was not going to be pretty.