Last week during an interview, Senator Dick Durbin admitted that the government is pretty much completely controlled by the banks:
And the banks — hard to believe in a time when we’re facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created — are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.
I would agree with this, except that he left out the insurance industry. And I’m not just talking about the $180 billion we are pouring into insurance giant AIG with basically no oversight. I’m talking about the upcoming fight to reform health insurance in the US. Yes, this is the same industry that was able to completely quash any health insurance reform back during the Clinton administration. Even before this new fight has begun, the insurance industry has been able to define the terms of the discourse. Don’t believe me?
Consider that a majority of Americans favor what is called “single payer” health insurance, where the government pays for your health care, but doctors and hospitals remain private. This is the system used in countries like France, Canada, England, New Zealand, and … well pretty much everywhere. In fact, we have single payer health insurance here — it’s called Medicare, but it is limited to seniors.
And when polled, Americans favor single payer insurance by a large margin. In fact, less than a third of Americans think health insurance should be provided by for-profit insurance companies.
So you would think that everyone would be talking about single payer health insurance, but no. There is an eerie silence around single payer. The corporate-controlled media almost never mentions it, except to dismiss it as socialism. Most telling is that even Obama never mentions it. Instead, Obama is proposing government administrated health insurance to insure the people who can’t get insurance from private insurance companies. In fact, when Obama assembled his first health care forum, he didn’t even bother to invite anyone who favored single payer (although he invited plenty of private health insurance companies).
What is really ironic about all this is how twisted the public discourse on any health insurance reform has become. Consider Senator Ben Nelson, a Democrat from Nebraska. Last Thursday, Nelson declared that he will oppose the creation of any government-run health insurance plan (maybe nobody mentioned to him that we already have a government-run health insurance plan called Medicare).
Nelson sides with opponents of health insurance reform, who say a government-run plan would undermine the nation’s existing system of employer-sponsored health insurance, because (and here’s the amazing part) private insurers could not compete with a government-run plan, which presumably wouldn’t have to spend money on activities such as marketing or developing networks of participating physicians and hospitals.
In other words, he is opposing health insurance reform, because it would save money. Nelson claims that eventually, the public plan would win out because its prices would be lower, or because their employers would stop offering insurance.
Speaking as someone who has run several companies, I would have loved to have not had to deal with health insurance. Even a small company has to spend lots of scarce resources (time and money) figuring out a health insurance plan. Then they have to pay a health insurance broker, who then has to deal with a health insurance company, who then deals with the actual doctors and hospitals who provide care. It is a crazy system. But Nelson thinks having companies provide health insurance is a good system. No thanks!
Nelson says that he is forming a coalition of politicians opposed to the creation of a public plan, saying that he does not believe that a majority of the Senate supports the idea, even though 73% of the public want the option of choosing a public insurance option.
In other words, the Senate is owned by the insurance companies. I guess it should be no surprise that Nelson received more than half a million dollars from the insurance industry in the last year alone, making insurance companies his biggest donor group (even more than lobbyists).
UPDATE: Here’s a photo of Dr. Margaret Flowers, along with seven other people, being arrested for attempting to testify in favor of single payer insurance. The Senate Finance Committee had barred any testimony from her group.