The health care debate so far has been a triumph of ignorance over reason.  It’s not only the obvious idiocy, like so-called leaders who scare people with make-believe death panels. People like Joe Scarborough, who have a privileged perch from which to air their views, are a big part of the reason why the "debate" is a failure. 

Scarborough is a blowhard–Mika Brzesinski’s father once put him in his place by calling him, to his face, so "stunningly superficial" that "it’s almost embarrassing to listen to [Scarborough]."  That was a reference to Scarborough’s ignorance in the area of foreign affairs.  Today, Scarborough showed us why he’s an embarrassment when it comes to domestic issues.

Scarborough and the gang were talking about health care today.   A doctor who is on the show said that we need a public option because underinsured people are lining up for health care, in scenes we would normally associate with the developing world.   Scarborough smugly responded that he’s a free market guy, and the public option has nothing to do with competition.  If there was a cheaper way to provide health care, Scarborough said, the market would provide it–someone else would simply enter the market and provide a cheaper option than the "thousands" of companies currently providing insurance.  

Wow.  In Scarborough-world, the free market works as in a laboratory.  Anyone with a new way to provide health insurance can enter the market any time.  In reality, there are near monopolies in most parts of the United States.  We don’t have real competition right now, and insurance companies are taking advantage by raising premiums.  Recent years have seen hundreds of mergers, and a handful of companies now dominate local markets; 94% of statewide commercial health insurance markets are deemed "highly concentrated" under Department of Justice guidelines.  In ten states, just two insurers have a market share of 80% or more (in 3 states it’s 95% or more).  In seven states, a single insurer has captured 3/4 or more of the market.

 In Scarborough-land, there’s nothing anyone can do about this–and no one on his panel contradicted his fantasy-land view of the thriving competitive market that exists for health insurance companies.  It’s no wonder we’ve reached a point where the big question is whether health care reform won’t contain actual reform.

Scarborough wrapped up the discussion by saying that what’s happening with health care reform is an example of how "the center always holds" in American public policy.  When debate has been hijacked by scare tactics, misinformation, and outright lies what we’re seeing isn’t a triumph of moderation, it’s a triumph of ignorance.

Chris Edelson

Chris Edelson

Chris is a lawyer and professor at American University who writes frequently about current political and media issues. His writing has also been published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Metroland (Albany, NY), and at commondreams.org

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