Health Care Game On

Robert Waldmann

If this article by REED ABELSON in the NY Times is correct, health insurance companies are basically begging for the H Clinton health care plan. Now I’m old enough to remember that things looked good in February 1993, but it seems that Obama’s opposition to a mandate was (accidental ?) genius. The plan he proposed during the campaign is popular and would be so horrible for insurance companies that they are lobbying for universal coverage, that is, a mandate.

Of course they don’t want to have to compete with medicare and everyone seems to expect that eliminating that will be part of the deal. I mean when it comes right down to it, people are willing to sacrifice efficiency and let the public debt grow.

Quotes and discussion after the jump

The article starts scary

GO ahead, take a guess: Which company has developed a 2,000-page strategic plan and gathers its senior executives almost every other working day to talk about how well they are doing?

Not General Motors. Not Citigroup. Not A.I.G.

The answer is Aetna, the Hartford-based company that is one of the nation’s largest health insurers.

But then it seems that Aetna is trying to develop a strategy to get to universal health care.

But the industry is also taking a very public role in voicing concern about some of the proposals being floated. In supporting legislation that would prevent the companies from refusing to cover people with existing medical conditions, the insurers have said the government must require everyone to buy insurance, subsidizing the cost for those who cannot afford it.

FOR private insurers, the more troubling specter in health care reform is an expansion of the Medicare program to those under 65. The program has lower expenses and generally pays much less for medical care than private insurers, so it would probably translate into a lower-cost plan for consumers.

Now the article is a monster puff piece which could have been written by Ronald A. Williams, chief executive of Aetna. Still the insurers are sticking to their line that they want a mandate, that they need a mandate, that they’ll behave if they are given a mandate.