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Having the Backbone to Set Minimum Standards for Health Insurance

By       Message Robert B. Reich     Permalink
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Source: Robert Reich

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Democrats are showing once again they have the backbones of banana slugs.

The Affordable Care Act was meant to hold insurers to a higher standards. So it stands to reason that some insurers will have to cancel their lousy sub-standard policies.

But spineless Democrats (including my old boss Bill Clinton) are caving in to the Republican-fueled outrage that the President "misled" Americans into thinking they could keep their old lousy policies -- and are now urging the White House to forget the new standards and let people keep what they had before.

And some congressional Republicans are all too eager to join them, and allow insurers to offer whatever crap they were offering before -- exposing families to more than $12,700 in out-of-pocket expenses, canceling policies of people who get seriously sick, failing to cover prescription drugs, and so on.

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Can we please get a grip? Whenever industry standards are lifted -- a higher minimum wage, safer workplaces, non-toxic foods and drugs, safer cars -- people no longer have the "freedom" to contract for the sub-standard goods and services.

But that freedom is usually a mirage because big businesses have most of the power and average people don't have much of a choice. This has been especially the case with health insurance, which is why minimum standards here are essential.

Yes, the President might have spelled this out a bit more clearly beforehand, explaining that 95 percent of us aren't in the private insurance market to begin with and won't be affected, and that most of the 2 percent who lose their lousy policies and have to take better and more expensive ones will be subsidized.

But right now the President needs all the political support he can muster to hold insurers' feet to the fire. Democrats should stand firm for a change.

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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

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