Sunday, March 7, 2010

A healthcare reform solution

All across America there are mom-and-pop businesses offering products, services, and employment to their towns, villages, neighborhoods, and surrounding communities. Of course, they make a profit; their mission is to make enough profit to provide for business reinvestment and to provide for their families an adequate standard of living. They contribute to the well-being of their communities. Their mission is not wealth creation.

Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames in their book, “How Capitalism Will Save Us,” say that the free-enterprise system is the best way to unleash the creativity, inventiveness, and energy of people and mobilize them to meet the wants and needs of others. That's because free-market transactions are about achieving the greatest possible mutual benefit, not only for the parties directly involved but eventually for the rest of society.”

The Forbes-Ames description precisely characterizes America’s small business community. They are exemplary of the entrepreneurial spirit, which is at the heart of free market capitalism. In Pembroke and all of America there are many examples of that free enterprise, entrepreneurial spirit.

On the other hand, not all businesses embrace that mission. Unless it contributes to their bottom-line, they do not embrace a mission that is necessarily benevolent to society beyond the employment and products their businesses provide. These corporations seek market predominance and see themselves only in the light of creating corporate and personal wealth. They think first and foremost about their shareholders and not the concerns of their customers.

These businesses define Corporate America. Unlike the mom-and-pop businesses, Corporate America is driven by greed, even rapaciousness, and is exemplified best by the health insurance industry who engages in profiteering, not profit making.

For example, WellPoint’s Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California is raising premiums by as much as thirty-nine percent -- fifteen times the rate of inflation.

In 2008, WellPoint paid thirty-nine executives each a million dollars or more. Moreover, over a two-year period, the company spent more than twenty-seven million for executive retreats at luxury resorts.

Wendell Porter, former insurance executive for CIGNA, correctly refers to private health insurance as “Wall Street-run healthcare.”

In view of our economic problem created by an unregulated Wall Street, why would anyone support the notion that affordable health care is possible in a free market.

Dr. Marcia Angell, Harvard Medical School Senior Lecturer, says you have to ask yourself, "Why is it that we spent over twice as much per person on health care and yet don't manage to cover everyone? And the reason is that we have chosen, alone among all advanced countries, to leave health care to for-profit industries, to leave health care to businesses that then distribute health care as a market commodity according to the ability to pay and not according to medical need.”

It is naive to think that Corporate America, and in particular the health insurance industry, will behave like the mom-and-pop businesses of Main Street.

President Obama’s and congress’ proposed plans are disappointing because they are, as Dr. Angell says, a “plan [as in Romney’s healthcare in Massachusetts] that tries to keep the private insurance industry in place.” And, if oversight/regulation cut into profits, they will simply raise premiums. For the sake of bipartisanship, President Obama has given in to the republican free market endorsement and the private health insurance industry claim that it can regulate itself.

The solution is simple: America will never be able to guarantee universal, adequate, accessible, and affordable healthcare until profit considerations are taken out of the healthcare plan; it is the only achievable, viable way to authentic healthcare reform.