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Obama defends regulation at the health-care summit

One of the chief substantive disputes of the White House’s health-care summit concerned, not surprisingly, regulation -- whether the federal government should set minimum standards for the policies that would be available on health exchanges. Republicans, in their more rhetorical moments, argued that this constituted yet another case of the federal government coming between patients and their doctors -- as if the insurance companies this provision is designed to regulate didn’t already do that, as if the effect of this provision wouldn’t be to make the insurance company’s limitation on doctor-patient relationships less onerous.

In their more substantive moments, Republicans such as Virginia’s Eric Cantor complained that this is something that should be left to the states rather than to Washington. In effect, though, this is to subject life-and-death decisions to the accident of geography. The crazy-quilt nature of American health coverage has been well illustrated in the past two weeks by the stories emerging about increases in people’s insurance premiums, including increases of up to 39 percent from the largest individual-policy vendor in California and more than 50 percent from a company in Michigan. One hitherto obscure fact that emerged from these tales is that in 25 states, the state insurance commissioner has the power to roll back excessive rate hikes, and in the other 25 states, he or she has no such power. Clearly, if health-care spending is to be brought under some control, and if the ability to obtain health care is ever to become an American right, a federal standard is needed.

All the more so since members of both parties support changes in the law that would allow health insurers to sell their policies in more than one state. Absent minimum national standards, companies based in states with little or no standards could market skimpy policies to the young, forcing older and sicker Americans to purchase much more costly policies with high deductibles and the like. We’ve seen a version of this in the credit card market, when companies incorporate in states with no serious regulations, such as South Dakota, and then market their cards, with ruinous fees and interest rates, across the nation. Why Republicans think the credit card industry provides a viable model for a nationwide health insurance industry is a good question.

President Obama didn’t use the credit card analogy, but he did recall having a car-insurance policy when he was a community organizer in Chicago that clearly wasn’t designed to pay for damages incurred in accidents where there was no bodily harm. He mentioned that drugs would be cheaper if we didn’t have a federal agency testing them to see if they worked and if they were safe. Same with the price of food and food safety standards. In short, he defended the idea of regulation, which the Republican Party, currently in its most libertarian phase ever, seems to dismiss, except when they’re reminded that, in fact, they support safety standards, too. (If government has no role in assuring such standards, why were Republicans asking questions of Toyota’s executives in yesterday’s hearings?)

Does the fact that the government sets standards for drug, food and auto safety mean that the government has taken over pharma, agribusiness and the auto industry? Of course not. And does government setting standards for insurance policies mean it has taken over health care in America? Contrary to Republican talking points, it surely does not.

By Harold Meyerson  | February 25, 2010; 4:55 PM ET
Categories:  Meyerson  | Tags:  Harold Meyerson  
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Comments

No, government has not taken over pharma. Pharma has taken over government. Why else would they spend $150 million promoting the democrat's plan? (source: "A power player's surprising fall," Politico, Feb 12, 2010)

Posted by: mtpeaks | February 25, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse


Sure, leave health insurance regulation to the states.

That's what we did with banks and interest rates. Each state set the limit for interest rates that prevented banks from becoming loan sharks.

Then, in 1979, Citibank "convinced" some state representatives in South Dakota to not merely raise the limit, but to eliminate all limits.

By 1981, Citibank had relocated its' entire credit card operation from New York to South Dakota. Seems like an odd decision from a business perspective.

However, by an absolutely miraculous coincidence, that same year the Supreme Court decided that banks had the right to "export" the interest rate limits in their home state to all 50 states.

Citibank instantly became the most profitable credit card business in the entire world. Needless to say, all of the other credit card banks packed up and moved to South Dakota.

Now banks routinely play financially unsophisticated Americans for fools and lure them into huge amounts of debt and outrageous interest rates.

Leaving the regulation of critical industries to the individual states isn't just dumb, it's insane.

..

Posted by: DEFJAX | February 25, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

When the federal government stops interfering in our nation's commerce, so many wonderful things happen!

Bankruptcy, recession, depression, economic collapse...


Posted by: helloisanyoneoutthere | February 25, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Health Care by definition cannot ever be a right. Nothing that requires someone else to provide a service to you can be considered an Individual Right and Collective Rights cannot rationally exist.

Posted by: BradG | February 25, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

You know, it's incredibly ironic that guys like Myerson -- left leaners to be sure -- probably think they are so bright when, in fact, they promulgate such banal and superficial opinions such as this one.

It's not regulation that's bad...or good. It's GOOD regulation that's good and BAD regulation that's bad.

And I just love this astonishing insight from Myerson...

"Absent minimum national standards, companies based in states with little or no standards could market skimpy policies to the young, forcing older and sicker Americans to purchase much more costly policies with high deductibles and the like."

Well, duh!! Younger people don't get sick...they should pay MORE? Older people DO get sick...they should pay LESS? (Particularly when they are likely to be richer than young people).

And what constitutes "minimal standards?" Your minimal standards and my minimal standards may be miles apart. But when the Federal Government mandates "minimal standards" ...well, the guard should go up...especially when it comes to activities that are (or at least SHOULD be)in the end, truly private, such as getting health cares.

Why do we have great computers...cell phones...TVs...better windows, washing machines...and better cars. Because private enterprise COMPETES to deliver the highest quality product at the lowest price.

In the end, it's the private marketplace that is the innovator, not Washington D.C.

Posted by: karl-keller | February 25, 2010 7:11 PM | Report abuse

The gov't is going broke without taking on this massive entitlement. Even if they do pass a healhcare bill it is unsustainable and will likely cause social security and medicare (the crumbs we currently get tossed our way) to collapse even sooner. Have you pro-government entitlement losers put any thought into that? Do you really think you are going to collect on that social security or use that medicare when you really need health coverage? While the gov't pisses away it's time on these empty promises, the economy continues to wither on the vine. In reality we are not entitled to anything.

Posted by: peterg73 | February 25, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse

In their more substantive moments, Republicans such as Virginia’s Eric Cantor complained that this is something that should be left to the states rather than to Washington. In effect, though, this is to subject life-and-death decisions to the accident of geography.

------------------

One wonders if Myerson has recently visited the highly mobile America of the 21st century or if he really believes that people are slaves to the land, incapable of moving in their own self-interest? The history of the U.S. is that of individuals analyzing the relative merits of states and moving accordingly. North-South, East-West, Coastal-Inland, or Urban-Rural the diversity of state laws, to address different needs according to geography, is the greatest strength of this nation.

Posted by: UncomfortableTruths | February 25, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

The more lucrative the industry, the shorter and tighter the regulatory leash must be, it's the only way that investors, policy holders, patients and consumers can trust the information they need to operate intelligently.

Federal regulations should be the floor for any nationwide industry, not the ceiling.

Industry can never be trusted, on its good-will alone, to do the right thing, it needs to be properly, and strongly, regulated.

Posted by: kingcranky | February 25, 2010 10:29 PM | Report abuse

UncomfortableTruths wrote: "One wonders if Myerson has recently visited the highly mobile America of the 21st century or if he really believes that people are slaves to the land, incapable of moving in their own self-interest? The history of the U.S. is that of individuals analyzing the relative merits of states and moving accordingly. North-South, East-West, Coastal-Inland, or Urban-Rural the diversity of state laws, to address different needs according to geography, is the greatest strength of this nation."
----------------

Or as in my case, Europe, where I can work, pay taxes as per my income, and get the health care denied to me in the US.

Why would I stay in the US?

My 'pre-existing condition' resulted from an injury that occurred when I was a small child. No amount of 'personal responsibility' can return to me the full use of my legs.

If my fellow countrymen have no sense of loyalty to me and people like me, don't expect any solidarity in return.

It is only a matter of time before your narrow, selfish greed comes back to bite you as America's real genius is turning short-term successes into long-term failure.

Posted by: darling_ailie | February 25, 2010 11:38 PM | Report abuse

Government will never regulate insurance companies...

Posted by: easttxisfreaky | February 26, 2010 12:56 AM | Report abuse

There is all the difference in the world between the federal government coming between patients and their doctors and the insurance companies doing so. You can change the company one uses – millions do it every year – especially if interstate purchase if health insurance is allowed. You cannot change the federal government – you are stuck with it for life, you are entirely at its mercy. Leaving the country is your only option, as Canadians regularly do.

Posted by: gmdim | February 26, 2010 4:49 AM | Report abuse

Congress gets their health insurance from a government regulated exchange and those 65 and older also have government run Medicare which gives them 100% coverage. Those in Congress who think this is so bad should give up their very good coverage.

Posted by: brownshopbears2000 | February 26, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Repubs are almost always willing to accept safety regulations. This is what they're really worried about:

If the federal government defines minimum standards for health insurance, they are esentially defining a new 'right.' Americans will quickly come to feel they are entitled to this right. When insurance companies do their thing, many will fail to deliver on this right, and there will be renewed calls for a public option. It will be easy to implement because the national exchange and minumum standards will already be in place.

Because of the way people choose insurance and generally view healthcare, half of America will clamor for the public option the first year. The pool of privately insured people will shrink, rates will go up, and the soon all people will want the public option and we'll have a single-payer system.

Because of cost issues, the government will eventually have to start restricting the types of treatment they will pay for. This will will turn the U.S. into Europe, with healthcare rationing, lines, and stifled innovation in healthcare.

In addition, since the government controls healthcare delivery, they will eventually start telling us what to do and how to live our lives. America will have become a socialist nightmare.

Posted by: rschmieder | February 26, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Thursday’s health care summit was what it was: an exercise in rhetoric. Republicans reprised their familiar routine of propaganda and political theater. Democrats dug in, sticking mostly to the same talking points they’ve been repeating for over a year now. And the President persistently attempted to bridge the gaps and break the deadlock between them, to no avail.

Unfortunately, it was obvious from Senator Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) opening remarks onward that Republicans never intended to have a real conversation about health care. Rather than focusing on areas of potential agreement, like medical malpractice reform, the senator chose instead to misrepresent the facts about health insurance premiums.

Behind a facade of phony fiscal fortitude, the G.O.P. blindly obstructs legislation essential to our economic recovery, hoping that this cynical strategy will return them to power.

Moreover, by repeatedly refusing to engage in a serious exchange of ideas, Congressional Republicans fail to acknowledge the fundamental truth behind health care reform: that it is an economic and social necessity.

Read more @ http://armchairfirebrand.wordpress.com/

Posted by: ArmchairFirebrand | February 27, 2010 5:37 AM | Report abuse

Thursday’s health care summit was what it was: an exercise in rhetoric. Republicans reprised their familiar routine of propaganda and political theater. Democrats dug in, sticking mostly to the same talking points they’ve been repeating for over a year now. And the President persistently attempted to bridge the gaps and break the deadlock between them, to no avail.

Unfortunately, it was obvious from Senator Lamar Alexander’s (R-TN) opening remarks onward that Republicans never intended to have a real conversation about health care. Rather than focusing on areas of potential agreement, like medical malpractice reform, the senator chose instead to misrepresent the facts about health insurance premiums.

Behind a facade of phony fiscal fortitude, the G.O.P. blindly obstructs legislation essential to our economic recovery, hoping that this cynical strategy will return them to power.

Moreover, by repeatedly refusing to engage in a serious exchange of ideas, Congressional Republicans fail to acknowledge the fundamental truth behind health care reform: that it is an economic and social necessity.

Read more @ http://armchairfirebrand.wordpress.com/

Posted by: ArmchairFirebrand | February 27, 2010 5:38 AM | Report abuse

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