[Editor’s Note: This article was updated on September 3, 2009 at the suggestion of the author.]
Private health insurance is “oil” in the “water” of Public Health. They do not belong together. We have heard much about the redundancy, and excess, unnecessary costs of private insurance, and a lot about the horrors faced by those with and without coverage. But there are other basic, root issues that so far have not been widely addressed. The public and Congressional debates offer opportunities to raise some of these questions.
* For-profit insurers are invariably investors, with what was our health care money, in all sorts of industries, many of them being notorious for causing health problems.
We know, from SEC (Securities & Exchange Commission) material, that top insurers have been or still are multi billion dollar investors in cigarette manufacturing. They may also invest in tobacco pesticides and even the firms that supply carcinogenic radioactive fertilizers to tobacco growers…not to mention chlorine interests that are responsible for presence of dioxin in the smoke from adulterated products, agricultural firms that supply pesticide-contaminated crop ingredients, paper/pulp, sugar, burn accelerants, and flavorings/sweeteners/aromas etc from pharmaceutical firms.
This glaring Conflict-of-Interest goes far to explain why we have a war on undefined, unanalyzed, unpatentable, public-domain tobacco plants, and on smokers…on the unwitting victims of the effectively secret adulterants in the typical fraudulently-marketed concoctions…instead of a war on the manufacturers and adulterant suppliers and their compliant agents in regulatory positions.
No insurer with cigarette production holdings ought be anywhere near our health care system, and they certainly ought not be among those participating in compulsory programs.
* If an insurer is invested in, or does business insurance with, pharmaceutical firms, such an insurer has motive, opportunity and fiduciary duty to promote its investment property’s drugs over others that may be cheaper, more effective, and safer. Such an insurer has same motives to ignore, or not even look for, problems with drugs made by its investment properties. Such an insurer might also work to discredit, prohibit, or not authorize traditional natural unpatented drugs, herbs, vitamins, minerals and supplements.
* An insurer invested in pesticides or bio-tech firms has a huge motive to ignore the harms and risks of pesticides (in typical cigarettes or elsewhere) and Genetically Engineered foods, and to fail to advise the use of organics, or avoidance of industrial toxins, carcinogens and synthetics.
* With whatever control private insurers have over HMOs, hospitals, doctors, etc., one has to worry that patients may not receive proper medical diagnoses if medical staff avoids even looking for body burdens of industrial chemicals or radiation. It is hard to imagine how proper care can be administered if certain contributing factors and causes of illnesses are not sought or found.
What we have with private, investor insurers is a “Company Doctor” situation like in the old Coal Mine Towns where doctors found that miners had “bad colds”, not black lung disease caused by unsafe work conditions.
Not a day goes by without reports that some natural thing, or peoples’ “behavior”, or natural plants (like tobacco), or “faulty” genes, bad diet, obesity, lack of exercise, or something, causes such-and-such problems. We only hear about Industrial Causes when a problem becomes too big to cover-up.
* Insurer investments create problems across the board. Many, most, or all customers would not care to have this second-handed economic investment relationship with firms they may oppose for religious, moral, political, environmental or even business reasons. But who is told where an insurer invests? Who thinks to even ask? One would have to go to the significant trouble of navigating the SEC EDGAR Database, if they even knew such a thing existed.
* No matter how the issue is sliced, one who patronizes a private insurer, either willingly or under government compulsion, therefore contributes funds to things that have nothing whatever to do with health OR the Public Interest. Besides the investment funds used by for-profit insurers, these include advertising, campaign gifts to politicians, CEO bonuses, corporate conventions, corporate jets, lobbying, and even lawn care and brass polish at corporate headquarters. With no Public Interest relating to those matters, it is hard to see how government-mandated insurance patronage can even be legal.
* Speaking of legality, compelling the purchase of private health insurance services is importantly different from states’ police-enforced compulsion on drivers to buy auto insurance. In that case, in order to comply with Constitutional prohibition on Compulsory Speech, officials point out that no one is forced to drive. However, with health insurance, the only ways to opt out legally, without penalty, would be to leave the country, or commit suicide. This Constitutional question needs to be addressed.
* Beside all that, private insurers must grow or face shareholder suits. This guarantees rate hikes forever. Insurers have that motive and duty to charge as much as possible for services, and to provide the least possible in return. This is an unacceptable adversarial situation.
The United States public is capable of taking care of its own health system, as citizens of other countries manage quite well, without the questionable “help”…thanks anyway…from unnecessary, parasitic private insurers.
The biggest hurdles the people face are corporatized mainstream media (including “public” broadcasting) and “public” (endless quotes, I know) officials who have gone AWOL from their duties to serve the public but who serve, instead, and above all, those insurers and any or all of their investment properties.
John Jonik lives in Philadelphia. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org