Insurance companies and self-pity

By: Robert Lee - Contributing Columnist

We have all been told by the insurance companies that they are loosing money with the Affordable Health Care Act. This is the reason that they are backing out of providing insurance in a lot of the states. In some cases, there is only one provider. Here in North Carolina, that being Blue Cross Blue Shield. It’s not the fact that these companies are loosing money — it’s the fact that they are not making as much as they want.

It is a fact that these companies have made billions in the first quarter of this year. It is also a fact that Americans pay more in premiums than the rest of the world. It is also know that we are No. 11 when it comes down to quality of care around the world. These insurance companies are playing us all for fools and the government is helping them.

It does not matter what side of the political spectrum you stand on, for the insurance companies are playing both sides from the middle. Both sides get donations from the special interest groups within all of these companies. That special interest that I write about is the special interest of ripping off the consumer from their hard-earned dollar. Campaign donations buy votes for these companies’ interest. It’s all about business and not true caring for the people. They do not give donations out of the kindness of their hearts. It comes from the black-hearted to those who will help them in their quest for market dollars. It’s that simple, believe it or not. Free dollars from special interest to politicians do come at a cost to us all. That cost comes from our pocket.

If you don’t know, you should know that health care providers have been fighting to keep Congress from adopting a public option which would provide for the government to be in the health insurance business. Now that would be great for all of us, would it not? I don’t think so. As we have seen in the past, government just needs to stay out of a lot of what takes place in the private sector.

Still, many people do think and do oppose this, but only because of the information coming from the health insurance companies. But before we go any further, I have a question for you: Do you know anything about health insurance antitrust laws? I do and it’s a joke on the consumer, helped along by our own government. You all know what a bribe is? Look at this picture.

Health insurers and medical malpractice providers are not subject to the laws that you and I would burn for. They are not subject to antitrust laws. Who gave them that right? Our politicians, whom we voted in and our government. Now we all know that they, the government, work for the people, do we not? Open up your eyes, it’s all a pyramid scheme. The ones on top prosper and the ones on the bottom rung work for the top rung.

Antitrust violations are price fixing, bid rigging and market allocations. Markets have been closed in some cases by not letting the people choose to do business out of their state. Or in some cases — as in my own with my business and property insurance — I have to pay North Carolina a fee just because I went out of state for the coverage that I could not find here in North Carolina, because no one in-state covers my type of business.

So again the consumer pays the price. Good competition laws need to apply to all companies doing business.

If health providers and medical malpractice providers join together — and they do — then you have price fixing, bid rigging. At that point, the consumer loses. Now you do not stand a chance at getting a policy with a fair price tag attached to it. If there were a publicly owned medical provider, it would force competition. It would also, hopefully, stop those aspects that increase profits for the known companies and providers of health insurance — that being the price rigging and market allocations. Insurance companies prosper behind being exempt. I know I keep on repeating it, but the insurance companies do not play by competition rules that most companies do.

In past years, doctors and medical groups sued Blue Cross and United Healthcare, stating that the providers had been price fixing and monopolizing in violation of antitrust laws. It did them no good. The providers filed motions to arbitration and the trial judge denied this. But on appeal, the judges found that, in this case, the judge was wrong in denying the motion. This stopped the doctors dead in their tracks and they could not bring claims in court. If Congress would repeal the exemption from federal antitrust laws for health providers, then the Department of Justice could look into the health providers’ way of doing business. Competition in health care markets benefits consumers because it helps contain costs, improve quality and encourages innovation. The Federal Trade Commission’s job as a law enforcer is to stop firms from engaging in anti-competitive conduct that harms the consumer. The agency also “provides guidance to market participants, including physicians and other health professionals, hospitals and providers, pharmaceutical companies and other sellers of health care products and insurers to help them comply with the nation’s antitrust laws.” Gee, that all sounds good and looks good on paper and is the way that it is suppose to work — but don’t count on it. The insurance companies and government are all twisted up and lie in the same bed together.

I know some will say that I have written every word in a negative format about the insurance providers, but not exactly. What I have written is the truth. That truth being our politicians, in some cases, do not work in the best interest of the people. Trust has been lost by the people for the people that we put into office to make sure the people get an even break. Trust has a specific legal meaning: where one person holds property for the benefit of another. In the late 19th century, the word was commonly used to denote big business, because that legal instrument was frequently used in the combination of companies. Large manufacturing conglomerates emerged in great numbers in the 1880s and 1890s, and were perceived to have excessive economic power. That, as I see it, still holds true today within the health insurance business.

During that time period, hundreds of small railroads were being brought up and consolidated into giant systems. People for strong antitrust laws argued the American economy, to be successful, required free competition and the opportunity for individual Americans to build their own businesses. Separate laws and policies emerged regarding railroads and financial concerns, such as banks and insurance companies. It was written by a senator of the late 19th century that, “If we will not endure a king as a political power, we should not endure a king over the production, transportation, and sale of the necessaries of life.” That senator was John Sherman. In 1890 the Sherman Antitrust Act became law and it remains the core of antitrust policy today. Antitrust has a long history that goes back to John D. Rockefeller. In the 1880s he used economic threats against competitors and secret rebate deals to build a monopoly in the oil business, even though some small competitors remained in business.

I know in time these monopolies were broken up, but only after costing the consumer millions of dollars. This was written about the health industry, but we now see the communications industry and others becoming monopolies. This is not in the best interest of the consumer but it has all come about by the government allowing it to happen. Pity not the insurance companies, pity the people, for we pay the profits to these companies.

Robert Lee is a concerned citizen and U.S. Marine veteran who owns and operates Rockingham Guns and Ammo. His column appears here each Saturday.

Robert Lee

Contributing Columnist