Aetna, Anthem, Humana, Cigna and the biggest of them all, United Health Group are up in arms. The health insurance giants say they cannot make a profit working within the confines of the Affordable Care Act. I certainly hope that sob story doesn’t ruin anyone’s lunch.
What they mean is that they can’t make any money insuring people who need health insurance. They are just now finding this out because in the past, they refused to sell policies to people who really needed them.
They are still making plenty from those buying over the counter and through the assistance of employers. United Health stock was $30.40 on the day President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Last week the stock closed at just over $136 a share. That’s over 400% increase since Obamacare was enacted. The others mentioned above aren’t doing as well. Their growth is only in the 250% to 350% range.
The CEOs are all getting raises and the stockholders are receiving dividends. Yet, they want to quit offering coverage on the state exchanges because high-risk people are now eligible and are buying coverage they were unable to afford or for which they couldn’t qualify before the act. The companies are losing money on the exchanges, but as reported above, not nearly enough to stop their unprecedented upward spiral of profits.
The insurance companies’ answer has been to raise rates on small businesses. They are limited on how much they can raise rates on individuals, so they are taking out their deep frustrations of only growing profit by 300% or so over six years on the little guys who can only shrug and tell their employees that they are sorry, but they have to discontinue company group coverage. Lawyers do pro bono work, doctors volunteer in free clinics, entertainers stage charity fund-raising concerts, but insurance companies refuse to lose money on even one facet of their business simply for the good of those in poor health or who are just plain poor.
Health insurers are getting out of the state exchanges. Good riddance!
This gives us the opportunity to revisit the fact that the ACA was always intended to be modified and to grow toward a public option and finally morph into universal care for everyone–all 320 million of us whether we are poor, sick, expensive to cover, employed by a small business or not.
We like to refer to our sacred, historical documents as gospel and the one written by Thomas Jefferson proclaims the inalienable right of every citizen to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Jefferson was deeply influenced by English, Enlightenment philosopher John Locke who first placed “life” and “liberty” in a sentence together, and added another: “health”.
Health needs to be included as a basic human right–a right not compromised with the distraction of profit imbedded in the tenants of capitalism.
If United States citizens could agree to remove five words from the Medicare Act, “over the age of sixty-five”, we’d have economical, universal, efficient health care for all and United Health Group and its coconspirators would no longer have to concern themselves with the unprofitable reality of insuring sick people. They wouldn’t have to concern themselves with insuring anyone. The CEOs could relax and go fishing on their yachts and stock investors could ply their skills with other worthy companies that do not hold our public health hostage for a profit.
We must realize that there are tons of hurdles to clear before we can immerse ourselves in universal health care. That’s the primary reason for the ACA in the first place. We needed to wade into public influence of healthcare carefully–in increments–take baby steps–toward the ultimate goal of providing healthcare directly through our government rather than involving middlemen who are there to pad their off-shore accounts and make a profit for shareholders with our premiums.
Big government skeptics will rant and rave about government waste and disorganization, but those protests are just noise. The government has proven that it can manage the functions at which private industry is bad. Private industry has proven that their focus is on profit for themselves and not healthcare for the masses. Our public health is too important to put in the hands of private companies that have any agenda that is other than the wellbeing of the people buying the service.