If you can't buy off enough politicians, buy ads to scare and mislead people

Since single-payer healthcare is off the table (because insurance companies have bribed too many politicians), the fight in Washington is over giving Americans the option of buying health insurance from the government. This is much less desirable than single-payer because government (i.e., taxpayers) will get stuck providing healthcare to the sickest and oldest Americans while private insurance companies will cover only the healthiest, youngest Americans. Nevertheless, a government health insurance option would be a substantial improvement over the current “system” which leaves 48 million Americans without health insurance.

Private health insurers fear competing against a government plan because it would constrain their ability to siphon dollars from Americans' pockets. Upcoming TV ads — by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina — attack the idea of giving Americans the option to buy health insurance from the government. Paul Krugman describes these fear-mongering ads:

Troubled Americans are shown being denied their choice of doctor, or forced to wait months for appointments, by faceless government bureaucrats. It’s a scary image that might make some sense if private health insurance — which these days comes primarily via HMOs — offered all of us free choice of doctors, with no wait for medical procedures. But my health plan isn’t like that. Is yours?

“We can do a lot better than a government-run health care system,” says a voice-over in one of the ads. To which the obvious response is, if that’s true, why don’t you? Why deny Americans the chance to reject government insurance if it’s really that bad?

For none of the reform proposals currently on the table would force people into a government-run insurance plan. At most they would offer Americans the choice of buying into such a plan.

And the goal of the insurers is to deny Americans that choice. They fear that many people would prefer a government plan to dealing with private insurance companies that, in the real world as opposed to the world of their ads, are more bureaucratic than any government agency, routinely deny clients their choice of doctor, and often refuse to pay for care.

Posted by James on Friday, May 22, 2009