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Ethan Rome Headshot

Lies, Damned Lies and Republican Hypocrisy

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Here's yet another example of how the Republicans, led by Speaker-designate John Boehner, are corporate lapdogs who would sooner throw the country under a bus to help their ultra-rich patrons and corporate sponsors than give working families a break.

This week Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued a new rule under the Affordable Care Act that will give consumers rebates when health insurance companies misbehave by spending too much of our premium dollars on excessive profits and CEO salaries and not enough on health care. These rebates are cash-money that would help working families and businesses ripped off by their insurers.

Naturally, Republicans are unified against it. They think insurance companies need the money more than we do, which is one of the reasons they call endlessly for repealing the new health care law. After all, in this last quarter the nation's six biggest for-profit health insurers made $3.4 billion in combined profits. The chief executives of the 10 largest insurers took home $228.1 million in total compensation in 2009, more than doubling their average pay from the year before.

As you can see, the Republicans are against giving consumers these rebates for good reason - the insurance companies need the money.

Here's how the new rule works: Starting in 2011, health insurers must spend 80 to 85 percent of consumers' premiums on patient services and efforts to improve the quality of care. To comply with this so-called "medical-loss ratio" rule, insurance companies are going to have to disclose a lot of financial data that will show how they do business and mistreat consumers.

Hardworking families and businesses footing the growing bill for health insurance have a right to know how their money is spent -- whether their premiums pay for the medical care they need or big insurance bureaucracies and bloated CEO compensation. And if the companies spend more on profits, executive pay and administration than the new spending rule allows, they'll have to directly rebate consumers the difference. This is one of the ways the Affordable Care Act makes insurance companies directly accountable to consumers, and it's a big deal.

Based on current projections, up to 9 million Americans could be eligible for rebates worth up to $1.4 billion. Average rebates could total $164 per person in the individual market and $312 in the small-group market in 2012, according to government estimates. These rebates will go directly to consumers and employers. This may not be a huge amount of money to millionaires like Boehner and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, but it's real money, and every little bit helps these days.

This is one reason why the Obama Administration's commonsense new rule is good. And it's a very tangible way in which the new law will deliver on its promise of giving Americans more value for their health care dollar and bringing transparency to the way insurance companies operate.

These rebates won't blow a massive hole in the federal deficit. In fact, they won't cost taxpayers a dime. Compare that to the huge tax cut the GOP is determined to give to the richest of the rich--the top 2 percent of earners. While Democrats want to extend the Bush tax cuts for the middle class, the Republicans refuse to give working families a break unless they can also make the Bush tax cuts for the super rich permanent, a fiscally irresponsible and immoral proposal that will raise the deficit (which they say they want to reduce) by an astounding $700 billion. It is such an irrational idea that the two richest Americans, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, think its the worst thing Washington could possibly do.

The new medical-loss ratio rule puts a lid on the outrageous profits and indefensible executive pay of insurance companies. Both grow the most when they deny the most care. It's an important part of the Affordable Care Act, which the Republicans desperately want to repeal -- from the consumer rebates to the ban on denying people care just because they're sick.

The Republicans will say and do anything to help their rich friends and their corporate political investors. In the world of post-shame politics, they're the poster children -- they just don't seem to care how extreme and unconscionable their hypocrisy is, or how nakedly direct their payback to their political donors appears to be.

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