If awards were given for brazen corporate behavior, surely it would go to the CEOs of the major health insurance companies for raising insurance premiums for individual subscribers by shocking double digit amounts -- in the middle of the debate on health care reform.
One is tempted to say that they believe the fix is in and that nothing Congress will do will end up hurting them.
This Tuesday, those very CEOs are gathering at the Ritz Carlton in Washington for one last push to kill reform. And I will be there to greet them.
Of course, I will not be alone. I will be with thousands of others. We have all called, written, emailed, texted, faxed, and met with our elected representatives. Repeatedly. And yet that is simply not enough.
These CEOs are not apologetic. They have a common story -- we must raise premiums because healthy people are choosing not to be insured and doctors and hospitals are charging us more and more.
The unsaid words? We must raise premiums to maintain our profits and our munificent salaries and bonuses.
The even more important unsaid words? The health insurance market is fatally broken. These double digit rate hikes are only the beginning. There simply is no private insurance solution to the problems. Healthy people forgo insurance because they cannot afford the premiums. Doctors and hospitals charge more because they are caring for more and more uninsured, who themselves are less healthy because they only go to a doctor in an emergency.
I believe that the only sustainable health care solution -- one that provides universal coverage and does not bankrupt the country -- is the one adopted by almost all advanced countries -- a single payer system. Available in many flavors to meet local needs, almost all of our competitors have better care at lower cost than we do. The American health care system provides some of the worst care at the highest cost.
But the White House, Congress and the insider media do not want to talk about single payer because it eliminates the very existence of insurance companies in order to improve health.
Only with persistence bordering on impoliteness have we been able to ensure that a public option even be discussed as a choice. Having forbidden even the words single payer, the public option is the competition the insurance companies fear the most.
There would be no double digit rate increases if insurance companies faced the public option in every market.
On Tuesday, I hope to confront the health insurance CEOs. They should be publicly shamed for their behavior.
But most importantly, they should get out of the way of reform. Is there any doubt that absent the swarms of self-serving former Congressional aides now serving as hired gun lobbyists that the health reform that might get a vote would be far better for our health? Of course not.
But instead, these CEOs come to Washington to demand that Congress start over. Anything but fundamentally change the system.
I might get arrested for this confrontation. I am prepared for that. Because I have done everything else, yet the insurance market is getting worse and Congress has been intimidated into not acting.
If you are in Washington tomorrow, you can join in the fun and protest with me. You can carry a sign supporting the public option. If the insurance CEOs dare show their face, you can share your stories and tell them to get out of the way.
It should be fun. If it was not so deadly serious. How do these CEOs sleep knowing that tens of thousands of their fellow Americans are dying each year because of a system they have built and defend?
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