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Letter to President Obama: I don’t want private insurance!

Posted by ajspage on August 21, 2009

Note:  The following is an actual letter and is NOT satire.

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

I voted for you, even in the primaries, because I believed you had the best chance of putting our country on a new track, especially with healthcare.  I am writing to urge you, even while you bend over backwards to court Republicans, to remember to dance with the one that brung you.

Using a “public option” as a way to use competition to bring the insurance companies in line and bring down costs is idealistic foolishness.  I say this as someone who once proposed something like this to my own Member of Congress.   It won’t work, because it’s based on beliefs about how insurance companies behave that fall too short of the real-world mark.

What do you think you are doing now, if not competing with insurance companies for public opinion?  (And in my opinion, they haven’t even taken the gloves off yet.)  After we fight, fight, fight for reform, what do you think the insurance companies will do if you set up a system that codifies a competition for their gravy train?

If you think these misinformation campaigns against town halls are odious, what do you think will happen in the future as a “government option” tries to continue competing with insurance companies?  They will always work the system back to their favor, as they have proven over and over again.  And they will continue to make us pay for their machinations.

This reminds me of The Lord of the Rings, where the Council of Elrond tries to decide what to do with the Ring of Power:  If they try to hide or bury it, it will always resurface, making the darkness stronger than before.  If they try to wield the Ring themselves, even a well-meaning wielder will inevitably be corrupted.  The only way to restore the world for the good, even though it is a choice almost beyond hope, is to destroy the Ring.  (This has, in our household, given rise to many jokes about the alternate book Tolkien would be writing now — The End of Middle Earth:  Frodobama Chooses the Public Option Instead.)

Are you prepared to fight escalating battles with well-honed insurance interest machines for the rest of your term(s) and beyond?  Because that will be your legacy if you do not fight this battle to win it now, meaning, ending private insurance as we know it.

You hear from a lot of people who don’t want to lose their employer-based private insurance.  Let me give voice to the opposing viewpoint:  whatever else you do, please, please free us from the overwhelming burden of private insurance interests.

I do not want private insurance!

I say this as someone with FEHBP just like you:  I don’t want insurers in that system. They have ruined it.  They have rigged the rules to their favor.  They have corrupted the OPM, the government agency that is supposed to be monitoring them.  You cannot compete with a force like this.

I don’t want a menu of private insurance “options” to choose from.  What is the point of choosing from a complicated menu of “gottchas”?   What is the point of having a choice between 5 visits for this and 10 visits for that?  Wouldn’t you want a plan that just covered the care you need?  Like every other advanced nation on earth provides?

What is the point even of making insurance companies take people with pre-existing conditions?   The fundamental problem is that insurance companies don’t honor their contracts. Large, moneyed insurance companies spend considerable resources figuring out how to avoid honoring their contracts.  Nothing in any of the proposed reforms comes even close to dealing with this problem.  Tighter regulations are not the answer, because insurance companies simply work around them, as their track record demonstrates.  They wield our legal system like a knife.  Even if the rules aren’t changed ostensibly to their favor, they work the actual implementation to their favor.

Please, offer the skeptics something SPECIFIC that is better and more secure than what they have, so that they can stop reacting from fear.  Because if you predicate reform on keeping private insurance as it is, you will doom reform to failure.

I support you, but I’m having trouble being supportive of a push for this “public option” that not only dooms healthcare reform to failure, but essentially keeps us on the same destructive track I voted for you to change.


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