Health Care Is Rationed By Private For-Profit Insurance Companies. Is That Really What We Want?

We are told by conservatives that we don’t want government-run universal health care because it would mean rationing care. During the health care debate in the summer and fall of 2009 we heard talk of ‘death panels’ and ‘killing grandma’. Of course all of this was nonsense meant to scare people into thinking and voting a certain way, and it was quite effective, particularly on the Republican side of the aisle. The truth is we already ration health care in the United States. 50 million people are uninsured. How is that not rationed care? Health care costs are higher than they need to be (due to insurance company profits and waste) which means in some cases people forego treatment because they can’t afford it (even if they have insurance). How is that not rationed care?

On an episode of Up with Chris Hayes from last December, Donald Berwick (former CMS administrator) said, “we are either going to ration with our eyes closed or eyes opened.” Right now health care is rationed by private, for-profit insurance companies. Where is the accountability? Who decided that was a good idea? If a particular procedure is not covered by insurance, who was responsible for making that decision to ration care? And what is the motivation of that decision? Profits?

I realize a lot of people in this country have incredible distrust of the federal government, but at least the government is supposed to be accountable to the people. In fact, the government is supposed to be “we the people.” How do we make private insurance companies accountable to the people? Right now corporate executives in boardrooms are making our health care rationing decisions. Shouldn’t these decisions be out in the open for all to see?

As Berwick said back in December, “We need the lights on. We need that kind of decision making to be done in daylight.”


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