In headlines you never thought you’d see here, this is one of them. But today Senator Harry Reid delivered for the American people. He sent a bill to the CBO for scoring which includes a public option, and doesn’t include health insurance industry-favored triggers, which would basically enable the insurance industry to continue to increase premiums and squeeze the American middle class.
Individual states may be able to opt out of the public option. But that process will require state level politicians to take a stand against expanding access to health insurance and for continuing the broken system of insurers paying bonuses to employees who deny the sick the care they need. It’s unlikely that state-level politicians would take this path; and even if they do, voters have the ability to hold them accountable at the ballot box.
By taking this strong stand, over the objections of the White House and the powerful health insurance industry lobby, Harry Reid is ensuring that millions of Americans will be able to access the doctor. That cancer patients will no longer have to fight with their insurance company over unjust denials, and will instead be able to focus on beating their disease.
This won’t happen because of the specific provisions in the public option. But it’ll happen because who the American health care system is accountable to will fundamentally change if the Senate passes the health care bill that Senator Reid outlined this afternoon. As it is, insurers are accountable to Wall Street investment firms and big banks. These massive shareholders increase their own dividends by relentlessly pressuring big insurers to cut expenses–even when expenses are chemotherapy for a cancer patient.
If the Senate follows Senator Reid’s strong leadership on this issue, the system will be accountable to the people again. Don’t get me wrong, there will still be profits, and the salaries of insurance CEOs will still be obscene. Big insurance will be riddled with people who, in the words of Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), have no moral compass. These people will try to get a leg up by knocking down the meekest among us.
But the system will not longer be accountable only to industry and Wall Street insiders. The moral component of insurance–that we all have an interest in spreading risk and sharing the burden for those of us who become ill–will not longer be an after-thought confined to college textbooks on actuarial science. Instead, the health care system will ultimately be accountable to the people.
If an insurance company rescinds a policy, denies a needed treatment, or otherwise makes life difficult for people suffering from life-threatening illnesses –and they all do this daily at the moment–they will be held accountable to elected officials, and not quarterly reports and the daily vacillation of stock prices. The insurance bureaucrat who is more worried about her own bonus than the morality of our health care system will no longer be the most powerful person in health care.
Patients, who currently don’t know where or how to appeal denials to, will have a clear path towards holding insurance executives accountable for their wrong doings: calling your Congressman. And that is the fundamental change that Senator Harry Reid is poised to bring about with his impressive, unforeseen, and brilliant leadership on this issue. Because of Harry Reid’s decision, millions of Americans will get to go to the doctor, thousands of doctors will no longer have to deal with insurance bureaucrats in some cubical thousands of miles away overruling their decision, and tens of thousands of lives that otherwise would’ve fallen through the cracks of our current health care system will be saved. Well done, Senator Reid. Well done.