Thursday, March 12, 2009
The pharmaceutical and insurance lobbies have offered early support for President Obama's effort to reform health care ["In Health Plan, Industry Sees Good Business," front page, March 5]. Judging by the measures discussed, they have little reason to oppose it.
Mr. Obama and many legislators favor incremental changes such as increasing Medicaid drug rebates and expanding the use of health information technology, measures that do nothing to trim the massively wasteful administrative spending associated with private insurance. Subsidizing expensive and inadequate health insurance or requiring that Americans purchase it would be a windfall to the private insurance industry, as Medicare Part D is to the pharmaceutical industry.
However, the moment the bottom line of these special interests is threatened, the reception will not be so rosy. Karen Ignagni, president and chief executive of the lobby group America's Health Insurance Plans, has fired warning shots over proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage. With this program, private insurers receive a government subsidy of 14 percent over the costs of regular Medicare while selectively enrolling seniors with less costly illnesses and pocketing the difference.
If we truly want to reduce costs and expand health-care access to all Americans, we must eliminate private insurance and move to a single-payer system of financing. But we must be prepared to fight the special interests that won't see this as "good business."