Now the politicians heading home for summer break are getting the earful they deserve; the news is filled with coverage of angry townhall meetings mobbed by citizens waking up to the radical change Washington is attempting to foist on them with a federal takeover of health care. The Obama administration and Democratic leaders in Congress were not prepared for the anger and opposition their plans have aroused. They and their allies in the urban/liberal media are attempting to divert it to stock bogeymen, primarily the insurance industry.
Typical of the effort was an article in last Monday’s Minneapolis Tribune entitled, “Insurers fighting reform with cash.” (You can tell which side of this question people are on by whether they call it health care “reform,” “government takeover” of same, or the tried and true “socialized medicine.” Our policy at the Post is to avoid the use of such loaded terms in front page news headlines, although we relish them, and stronger, on the editorial pages. (Later in the article the Trib puts the term, “government takeover of health care” in quotes.)
The content of the article included the usual attack on Minnesota’s sixth district Rep. Michele Bachmann, for being one of the top recipients of insurance industry donations; female conservatives infuriate the Twin Cities media especially for whatever reason. Being one, Bachmann is a particular foe of the government insurance program that Obama deemed needed to “keep the private insurers honest.”
Strangely enough the insurance companies resent being characterized in this fashion, and are suspicious of a government agency given the mission of competing with them. Nothing, however, in President Obama’s life experience in the milieu of Chicago politics would lead him to believe the concept a bit odd, or insulting to the insurance industry.
Meanwhile, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi weighs in by calling insurers “villains” who “have been a part of the problem in a major way...doing everything in their power to stop a public option from happening.” Thus they have donated copiously to Rep. Bachmann, although the Trib acknowledges that she is a member of the House Financial Services Committee, and that virtually no one in Congress does not enjoy the largesse of the insurance industry.
But this stuff is fairly standard. What is much more strange than usual is input from an Eleanor Kinney, a professor at Indiana University. She says that private insurers are subsidized by tax policy and shielded from expensive claims from the poor and elderly by Medicare and Medicaid. “If you rely on such an expensive public subsidy, there is not necessarily a right to make a profit,” opines Professor Kinney.
What could she mean, other than death to the insurance industry? It is true that employers are not taxed on insurance they provide to employees, but how is that a subsidy, unless the professor thinks that all funds originate with and belong first to government, and only secondly to those who are allowed to keep what is not taxed away. (This is a concept all too common in left-wing academia, come to think of it.) If there is anything unseemly in this tax arrangement, it could be easily remedied by eliminating the tax on individual health insurance, which is certainly unjust.
Recipients of such a government “subsidy,” are the insurance companies supposed, then, to operate without making a profit? But how would they stay in business, or want to, for that matter? How would they pay their employees? Why would investors buy their stock? There are many perplexing questions here that apparently do not occur to Professor Kinney, or Tribune reporters (and their editors) who quote her in such fashion.
The underlying attitude here, of Kinney, the reporter who wrote this story and, by extension, the editors of the Trib, is that administering and paying for health care should be child’s play, if only that devilish profit motive wouldn’t get involved. The obvious solution, then, is for a dispassionate government, utterly unconcerned with filthy lucre, to take it over and run it for the common good.
If there is anything in this conception that seems a bit improbable to you, you might want to attend that next town meeting and give your congressman a little input.