Election rhetoric shuns the big picture in favor of the bigger platitude. Now that The Show is over, we are left with the equivalent of a Sunday morning hangover following a binge of promises and lies. We leave the theatre of political spectacle on steroids for the real world of unstable economy, a globally and publicly subsidized financial sector, and increased costs of living on everything from food to education to health-care; outpacing declining median incomes. The average cost for health insurance for a family is $15,745 per year vs. a median income of $50,502, or about half post-tax take-home pay.
“Obamacare” is the name commonly used for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010. The very moniker is indicative of how name-and-image-centric our world has become; Medicare was never called “Johnsoncare” when President Johnson signed it into law in 1965 and Johnson was not exactly a man of small-personality. At any rate, Obamacare or the PPACA ranks as one of the most misrepresented issues from the campaign, by both sides of the ever-slimming aisle.
The Tea-Party Conservative types get it embarrassingly wrong when they call it a “government takeover of health care.” Likewise, Progressive Obama-supporters are deluded in accepting it as the most sweeping healthcare reform since Medicare. (Side note: I wish the word ‘sweeping’ could be retired from politics until it actually means -sweeping.)
Here’s why. The PPACA does nothing to restructure the health insurance industry, anymore than the Dodd-Frank Act restructures the banking industry. This means everything else it attempts to do, positive or negative, will be vastly overshadowed by an industry accelerating to morph itself into a acquisition machine in order to circumvent anything that even smells like a restriction, including laws that exist and ones to come.
How? By doing the same thing energy and telecom companies did after they were deregulated in 1996, and that banks did after they were summarily deregulated (after moving that way for decades) in 1999. They are merging, consolidating, eliminating competitors, and controlling their domain. They are manufacturing power.
Investment bankers are roaming the world to exploit this hot new opportunity. That’s one reason insurance companies don’t even call themselves that anymore. Now, they are ‘managed health care’ companies. Call yourself a managed health care company, and you can buy everything from other insurance companies to hospitals to clinics to doctors. The more consolidation, the more fees bankers rake in, and the more premiums and medical reimbursements and health care procedures, each company can control.
The result of 1996 energy deregulation was a glut of crime-spawned bankruptcies like Enron. Likewise WorldCom led a pack of telecom degenerates in the production of tens of billions of dollars worth of accounting fraud. The final repeal of Glass-Steagall ignited a merge-fest of investment and commercial banks, their linkages ensuring that taxpayers, whose deposits have been protected since the New Deal, provide a safety-net upon which they can mint toxic assets loosely based on over-leveraged home mortgages, and engage in risky, speculative activity; big banks don’t go bankrupt when they fabricate values or lose big on stupid bets, they get federally subsidized in all sorts of ways.
You know who else is similarly too big to fail? The insurance industry.UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest health insurer covers 50% of the insurable population in over 30 states. Blue Cross-Blue Shield, covers 100 million people through a constellation of 38 sub-companies. They, and other insurance companies are growing in breadth. When companies consolidate, the result is less transparency, less competition, and more possibility for fraud and shady behavior. Every. Single. Time.