Do the people running these firms have no backbone whatsoever?
When will the insurers revolt?
It’s a question that’s popping up more and more. On the surface, the question answers itself. We’re talking about pinstriped insurance-company executives, not Hells Angels. One doesn’t want to paint with too broad a brush, but if you were going to guess which vocations lend themselves least to revolutionary zeal, actuaries rank slightly behind embalmers.
Still, it’s hard not to wonder how much more these people are willing to take. Even an obedient dog will bite if you kick it enough. Since Obamacare’s passage, the administration has constantly moved the goalposts on the industry. For instance, when the small-business mandate proved problematic in an election year, the administration delayed it, putting its partisan political needs ahead of its own policy and the needs of the industry.
But the insurers kept their eyes on the prize: huge guaranteed profits stemming from the diktat of the health-insurance mandate. When asked how he silenced opponents in the health industry during his successful effort to socialize medicine, Aneurin Bevan, creator of the British National Health Service, responded, “I stuffed their mouths with gold.”
just last week, Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that she was “urging” insurers to ignore both their contracts and the law and simply cover people on the honor system — as if they were enrolled and paid up. She also wants doctors and hospitals to take patients, regardless of whether they are in a patient’s insurance network or even if the patient is properly insured at all. Just go ahead and extend the deadline for paying, she urged insurers; we’ll work out the paperwork later.
Of course, urging isn’t forcing. But as Avik Roy of Forbes notes, the difference is subtle. HHS also announced last week that it will consider compliance with its suggestions when determining which plans to allow on the exchanges next year. A request from HHS is like being asked a “favor” by the Godfather; compliance is less than voluntary.