For-Profit health insurers together make up one of the biggest, if not the biggest, categories of Wall Street investors. Insurers use billions of health care premium dollars to invest in other industries, even in each other. While profits from this may serve to lower insurance costs, there are some overlooked problems:
1) For-profit health insurers invest in virtually all of the worst health-damaging industries on Wall Street.
That includes cigarette manufacturing, tobacco pesticides and pesticides in general, pharmaceuticals that make tobacco pesticides and untested non-tobacco cigarette additives, fast food and junk food, natural gas fracking, big oil, Genetically Modified foods, nukes, dioxin-creating chlorine, fluoride, military weaponry, mountaintop removal coal mining, and so on.
Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), in 2000, exposed insurer investments of billions in cigarette manufacturing. PNHP's 2009 figure for insurer investments in cigarette manufacturing (US & Canada) was 4.4 Billion dollars. In the junk food area, as per PNHP info, "11 large companies that offer life, disability, or health insurance owned about $1.9 billion in stock in the five largest fast-food companies as of June 2009."
The corporatized US health establishment does little or nothing about preventing exposures to industries' toxic and cancer-causing products and pollutants. This health establishment focuses instead on non-corporate risks"our behavior and "life style", "smoking", drinking, unsafe sex, over-eating, seat-belts, lack of exercise, too much sun, germs, etc. Harms are Our Fault or Nature's Fault. Corporations are off the hook.
2) For-profit insurers (non-profits cannot invest) also invest in Big Pharms. This creates a conflict-of-interest. Insurers and medical affiliates have incentive to favor their investment property's drugs over others that may be cheaper, safer, and more effective. This creates disincentive to investigate or assure the safety of those drugs. And this creates an incentive to promote investment properties' drugs that may not even be needed, and to ignore the health benefits of organic foods and other un-patented, non-corporate health-benefiting products.
There are other big problems with private health insurers. They waste fortunes on non-health things like advertising, PR, corporate jets, CEO bonuses, HQ upkeep, lobbying (for laws we like?), and political campaign gifts (to candidates we like?). There is no Public Interest to justify mandating that we patronize that.
The Obama administration's Wall Street Bailout was blatant, but under the guise of "protecting the uninsured", the mandate on many millions to purchase private insurance is a stealth gift to Wall Street by way of for-profit insurers' massive multi billion dollar investments in Wall Street.
A tax funded, public-administered Single Payer health program would remove those problems. It would cut off significant investing in those health- and environmentally-damaging Wall Street industries, and it would eliminate a major source of negative influence by those industries on medical science and on our health and health care.