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The Putrid Stench of Private Health Care Insurance

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Chaz Valenza     Permalink
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Nearly everyone recognizes something is rotten with private health care insurance. The crux of the problem, obscured by a a massive school of red herring, is rarely identified though it infects the entire medical services system. Once exposed all arguments in opposition to reform crumble.

Let's quickly net the red herrings, all of them.

At 4:00 p.m. on August 20, 2009, Brian Orelli, writing for the Motley Fool, published The Health Reform Witch Hunt.

Less than two hours later Motley Fools, money-minded individuals looking for salient investment advice, logged twenty-nine comments to Mr. Orelli's article.

To summarize, Mr. Orelli made the following points regarding the present health care reform debate:

  1. Congressmen Waxman and Stupack are on a witch hunt to, in Orelli's words, "Show us why you can't deal with a government-sponsored public plan," in the form of letters to 52 health insurers requesting salary and bonus data for their top executives, costs of conferences and retreats, and the profit margins on their companies' products.

  2. Five top medical insurers -- UnitedHealth Group, WellPoint, Aetna, Cigna and Humana -- have reported profit margins between a high of 7% and a low of 1.5% over the three years 2006 -- 2008.

  3. Medical costs, at 82% of every premium dollar, are the main reason health care insurance premiums are so high, and by mathematical extension, a public plan could only save 5%.

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  4. He then postulates that private insurers will innovate and find ways to compete even if there is a public option.

None of the above points matter. This is no witch hunt. There is a real, live monster on the loose that needs to be caged.

If the goal of the piece was to stir the pot and incite a response from the "Fools," it did just that. What's your guess as to the reaction from what can only be described as people with a bit of money to invest?

By my count: 7 opposed to most health care reform; 18 in favor of substantial health care reform and 4 for which I could not determine a position from their words.

Over 62% acknowledged that changing the current system is necessary.

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People hate change. People who are happy don't want any change. Yet these individuals, who have money to invest, want significant change in our health care system.

"Why?" becomes an important question. What is it that truly bothers us about the current system? We can point here and there. This is unfair, so is that. But to see the monster we have to step back, far back, because up close having private health care insurance is warm and fuzzy.

Those who posted comments to Mr. Orelli's ...Witch Hunt struggled to get their arms around the hairy beast. Many posts were over 500 words long. Some brief passages deserve repeating here in the context of visceral instinct that something stinks.

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Chaz Valenza is writer and small business owner in New Jersey. He earned his MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business. His current feature film project is "Single Point Failure" an insider's account of how the Reagan Administration (more...)

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