If you like your health insurance company, you may favor Randy Brock for governor in the election in November.
But if you have been priced out of the insurance market or can afford only bare-bones, high-deductible plans, you may think twice about the market choices Brock proposes to unleash on the state. Of if you find the complexity of insurance paperwork and the denial of care that it seems designed to effect to be offensive and predatory, then you may have little patience for Brock’s nostrums.
Brock, state senator from Franklin County and former state auditor, is the Republican candidate for governor, and last week he unveiled the outline of a market-based alternative to the health reforms spearheaded by Gov. Peter Shumlin.
It would seem that Brock is proposing to turn back the clock to a time before state government started to try to bring fairness and humanity to the health care system. He wants to open up the state insurance marketplace, bringing in numerous new insurance companies to offer customers an array of choices. It is the free-market mantra: Give customers choices, and the market will provide.
According to this view, the real problem is not the insurance industry; it is the government’s interference in the insurance industry. If the government had not placed so many restrictions and mandates on the insurance business, then insurance companies would be here by the dozens, tripping over each other to meet our needs.
Except the reason that the state interfered in the insurance business in the first place was that it was not meeting our needs. Insurance is a business with the aim, not of providing health care, but of denying care. It makes its money when it takes your premiums and then finds reasons not to cover you. The million-dollar earnings of top insurance executives are icing on the cake for the companies.
Before the state and federal governments interfered, insurance companies routinely denied coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, or who became ill or who had an illness that didn’t fit a certain category. It charged low prices for young people who were not likely to get sick and prohibitive prices for people more likely to get sick.
One of the ways that the state interfered to bring fairness to the system was through community ratings, which required insurance companies to maintain fairness in pricing. One result was that company profits were reduced, and companies that were no longer able to exploit customers to their satisfaction left the state.
Another way the state has interfered has been to require companies to provide services they had been unwilling to provide, such as mental health care, birth control, chiropractic care. These mandates cut into profits but ensured that customer needs, rather than company bottom lines, had priority.
Brock’s solution is to open up the state once again to predatory insurance practices so as to lure companies back to the state to provide customers with choices. People happy with their coverage may calculate that if Brock succeeds, their rates might go down. Maybe they are right.
But the state has embarked on an effort under Gov. Peter Shumlin that is going in the opposite direction. If Shumlin succeeds, the state will finally be free of the interference of insurance companies in our health care decisions.
Brock believes the free market will give Vermonters choice, when it often takes choice away by denying coverage. Shumlin’s plan would deny coverage to no one, and everyone would have the choice of seeing a doctor.
There are many details to be worked out by the Shumlin administration as it figures out how to finance and administer a new system. Brock is providing a service by laying out a clear alternative for Vermont voters to consider. Thus, health reform will come in for healthy debate during the campaign, and voters will be presented with what everyone believes the consumer should have: a choice.
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