It is a commonplace among progressives that many GOP politicians serve the interests of a wealthy minority, and do so by exploiting the not necessarily wealthy, low information segment of the population. The right’s almost religious opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides an interesting case study that seems to illustrate the truth of this contention.
To start with, consider the release today of the annual survey prepared by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Education Trust. One finding is that by 2021, if the current cost trajectory continues, employee-based health insurance premiums will increase from an average of $15,073 today to $32,175, more than doubling over 10 years. Those poor souls who must enter the insurance market on their own, without the benefit of an employer’s benefit plan, will pay even more.
Then take into consideration that, according to the latest census data, the ranks of the uninsured in Missouri amounted to 14% of the population, or 826,600 individuals at the beginning of 2009. Since we’re dealing with a deteriorating employment picture that may not improve any time soon, those numbers are undoubtedly higher now and will continue to increase. Not a pretty picture- at least not until 2014 when, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurance exchanges should become operational.
You remember insurances exchanges don’t you? Each state is required to set up an exchange that would give individuals and small businesses a unified place to shop for affordable and, for the neediest, subsidized health insurance plans. Exchanges can be developed by states in order to take into account local conditions, although if states fail to act, the federal government will step in and implement an exchange.
Anther good thing about exchanges: They prohibit insurance company price-gouging. For instance, insurance plans in the exchanges have to demonstrate that 80% of the premiums they receive are used to pay for health care, and participating plans would have to provide stringent justification before increasing prices. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Makes insurance affordable for those in the market all by their lonesome, while holding health care costs down for all of us.
Got all this down? Good. Then watch this video of state Senator Jane Cunningham going ballistic. She snorts, bellows, and paws well-trampled Tea-Party constitutional ground, charging the governor with violations of the same because he seems to have taken it for granted that it would be in the interests of citizens of the state to accept a federal grant to help establish the exchanges. Bear in mind, we’re talking about our tax dollars coming back to Missouri. And of course, in spite of her histrionics, Senator Cunningham is dead wrong when she suggests a lapse of propriety on the Governor’s part.
Some further facts to chew on:
— The Missouri House approved, with almost no controversy, legislation that would have led to the formation of an insurance exchange in Missouri
— Anti-ACA crusader Jane Cunningham filibustered the House Bill in the Senate.
— As a result, a Senate Interim Committee has been tasked with exploring “Missouri’s options on the establishment of a health insurance exchange and to study the effect of existing state law on same.”
— Prominent among the Committee members – six Republican Senators and two Democrats – is the bellowing diva above, Jane Cunningham, who, along with a majority of the GOP members of the Committee, have long been on the record as virulently opposed to any government role in health care delivery.
— To all appearances, Senator Cunningham and her fellow-travelers on the Committee are attempting to use the hearings to sabotage the establishment of a Missouri Insurance exchange. Scores of witnesses who wish to speak in favor of an exchange have not been allowed to testify in hearings where insurance industry spokespeople and others opposed to the exchanges dominate.
To recap: We have federal legislation that has a good shot at providing insurance for many who lack it now, while helping to control costs for all the rest of us. Although, the ACA hinges on private insurers, many speculate that it could lead to a greater government role in health care delivery at the expense of the private insurance industry. On the other hand, we have a bunch of posturing ideologues who, as in the case of ALEC darling, Jane Cunningham, have cast their lot with millionaires. As for the folks who vote for them, Jonathan Bernstein sums it up aptly:
… they don’t care very much about the ACA. They strongly oppose the health care plan that Barack Obama and Nancy Peloci and Harry Reid crammed through Congress against the will of the American people, and they think it’s an unconstitutional power grab that amounts to a government takeover that’s going to bankrupt the nation by cutting Medicare and death panels and all. But they don’t know or care anything about the exchanges, or the cost-cutting efforts, or most of the rest of it.
Isn’t it strange that the same TeaPublicans who champion state control of everything would stand in the way of the establishment of a state-controlled, market-based solution (the exchanges)? What they are doing is carrying the water for a handful of health insurance giants in this state who would like to keep our rates high and profits higher.