Mon, Apr

Want to Save Obamacare? Find an Antidote for the Poison Pill


CORRUPTION WATCH--Eons ago, I was involved in group health insurance. One day in 1968, I was speaking with an Aetna senior vice president in San Francisco. His desk was most impressive – it had not a single piece of paper on it, only some objets d’art. The views of San Francisco (he had a corner office) were breath taking. Obviously, I was interviewing with an important person. 


He looked at my test scores and resume and remarked, “Sorry we wasted your time. We won’t hire you. You will become bored in group health insurance within two months and quit.” Soon thereafter, the Los Angeles office of Mutual Benefit of New Jersey’s group health section hired me. I quit in two months due to extreme boredom. This self-back patting has an additional purpose, that is, to show that the Aetna VP knew of which he spoke. 

The Aetna VP also explained to me that there really was no such thing as health “insurance,” that between birth and death, everyone continuously needs “health.” Therefore, people have to pay for health care and “insurance” has given them the illusion that they could pass the burden on to someone else. By focusing on illness rather than on good health, as would be the sensible thing to do, people are deceived into believing that they can insure good health. 

The insurance industry realized long ago that politicians would never level with the American people and tell them that they, themselves, had to pay for health. To this day, millions of Americans do not know that health insurance and health care are two different things which are inherently at odds with each other. Politicians like to keep people bamboozled and confused. 

While Aetna did subsequently win the race to the bottom with “health insurance,” the current nightmare in Washington shows that the Aetna VP was correct. The politicos will never be honest with the American people. There has been so much evilness perpetrated in the field of healthcare over the last decades, (e.g. the vile US Supreme Court case of Pilot life Insurance Company v. Dedeaux 481 U. S. 41 (1987) which caused more suffering and needless deaths than anyone can calculate) it is hard to decide which event to highlight. Nonetheless, I have chosen the interplay between pre-existing conditions and the mandate that requires everyone to buy health insurance. I select this aspect of Obamacare because it reflects the foresightedness of the Aetna VP and the core dishonesty in the “healthcare” debate. 

The Pre-existing Condition Ploy Which Both Sides Play

“Pre-existing conditions” refer to any medical problem which a person already has when he becomes insured. When people are able to wait until they are stricken with a horrible disease or have a catastrophic accident before they buy insurance, the system cannot survive financially. Since Americans are particularly selfish and self-centered, millions will refuse to pay for health insurance until they need it personally. 

Prior to Obamacare, the idea of getting insured before you get sick or have an accident may have influenced some healthy people to buy insurance. I know of no studies to verify this correlation. More likely, young people have gotten health insurance as a benefit from their employers and it would save them a few bucks if they were to get the flu. 

In pre-Obamacare days, health insurance companies excluded pre-exiting condition from coverage.  Employers liked the exclusion as it kept premiums lower and it tied a worker to the company. 

Employers knew that they could abuse an employee knowing that he needed to stay employed for his kid, for instance, who may have been born with a genetic disorder and could die without insurance.  

The Mandate is the Cure for the Pre-existing Condition Ploy 

The Pre-existing condition problem did not require great wisdom to fix. Enter the “mandate:” everyone pays into the system. After many years, there would be no actuarial problem arising from pre-existing conditions because the risk would be distributed evenly among all the insurance companies. Also, this would make preventive care more important as studies prove it is a tremendous way to reduce healthcare costs. Overall, combining the requirement to cover pre-existing conditions with use of the mandate would elevate the general level of health. Fewer sick days would benefit the economy. 

How Obama-Geithner Put a Poison Pill in Obamacare 

Obamacare was great at requiring insurers to cover pre-existing conditions, but it sucked royally at enforcing the mandate. Obama, along with Timothy Geithner placed a poison pill in Obamacare. Covering pre-existing conditions would cost a fortune, but the mandate under which penalty tax payments would go to the government, would raise no appreciable revenue. Furthermore, the funds from the mandate would not go the insurance companies which were paying to treat the pre-existing conditions. 

One huge error was to characterize the mandate as a penalty. That made it coercive and pitted the Democrats against much of their base and other misanthropes who do not believe in mutual obligations among people in society. 

The only way for Obamacare to function was to heed the Aetna VP. The politicos had to educate the public that since everyone needs good health, everyone needs to pay for health. The only question would be when and how people paid. The most important social point for Obama to sell to the American people was that everyone has a moral obligation at all times of their lives to provide for their own health and for the health of everyone else.  

These should have been society’s main questions: If I am not for my own health, who will protect me? If I only think of myself, what sort of person am I? If not now, when? But we never had this discussion. Instead we have had the typical American approach – (1) me, myself, and I, (2) what is mine is mine, (3) and, what is thine is mine if I get sick without health insurance.  

Thus, Geithner and Obama put together Obamacare knowing that it would end up being a financial house of cards. Their mandate was a joke. The pre-existing condition requirement made healthcare costs zoom at a time when they should have been coming down. 

The Democrats vs the GOP 

Between the GOP and the Democrats, the GOP has been more realistic. The GOP recognizes that Americans are selfish and greedy. For the GOP base, the fear that they might be paying for a poor Black crack baby born to an out-of-wedlock welfare mother with seven other kids is intolerable (even if there is no such thing.) In contrast, the Democrats have no solution at all – they do not even have a bad solution.  

Until Americans admit that we are all in this nation together and that we all need good health in order to enjoy our inalienable rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, the GOP will exclude as many people as possible from healthcare, while the Democrats will castigate them as cold-hearted without providing any answers. Both are morally reprehensible.


(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


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