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Three Questions About Obama's 'Major' Health Care Announcement Today

By       Message David Sirota     Permalink
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So the big news today is President Obama's press conference with the health insurance industry touting the industry's "voluntary" commitment to slashing $2 trillion off Americans' health care bills over the next decade. The New York Times reports that this voluntary announcement is motivated by the health insurance industry's "hope to stave off new government price constraints that might be imposed by Congress or a National Health Board of the kind favored by many Democrats."

My three questions are really simple:

1) If the health industry is saying it can lower costs by $2 trillion over 10 years and remain highly profitable, isn't the industry admitting that it was planning to absolutely bilk consumers, and has been bilking consumers in the past? Put another way, isn't the industry admitting that it's entire business model is based on outright profiteering?

2) Why should the American public believe the health industry is going to voluntarily do anything to cut into its profits? Health executives have a fiduciary responsibility to private shareholders to maximize profits. Voluntarily lowering those profits would violate that fiduciary responsibility. Are we really expected to believe these health executives will, out of the goodness of their hearts, violate their fiduciary responsibilities? What has actually changed to suggest that they will violate their fiduciary responsibilities and help health care consumers?

3) Isn't President Obama legitimizing voices that will use that added credibility later on to try to derail serious health care reform? Today's press conference has the President of the United States effectively saying that the health insurance industry should have a major seat at the health-reform table - and that it should be trusted. But any serious health care reform will need to take on the health insurance industry in a way that will make that industry unhappy. When that eventually happens, won't the previous efforts to legitimize the health insurance industry's voice add credibility to its opposition to reform? I think so, and agree with Ezra Klein who says, "The fact that the White House is making a big deal of [the health industry's] support means" the White House is suggesting that it "would be a big deal if they lost it."

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David Sirota is a full-time political journalist, best-selling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist living in Denver, Colorado. He blogs for Working Assets and the Denver Post's PoliticsWest website. He is a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, which in 2006 received the Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage. His 2006 book, Hostile Takeover, was a New York Times bestseller, and is now out in paperback. He has been a guest on, among others, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and NPR. His writing, which draws on his (more...)
 

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