Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Maybe health care CEOs are just greedy and don't care about people

Almost every segment of the health care industry technically opposes the new Republican health care bill, but overall the industry's opposition has been rather tepid. David Leonhardt at the New York Times offers this explanation:

Why haven’t the big lobbying groups done more? I think there are two main answers. First, in past campaigns, groups were largely defending their own financial interests. People fight hard when their own money is at stake. Today’s opposition is at least as much about principle as profit, and lobbying groups haven’t been willing to go all-out for principle. 

Second, the groups are wary of attacking the Republican Party, given its current power. “We’re living in a world in which it’s just Republican votes,” one lobbyist told me. Speaking loudly against the bill risks alienating powerful politicians — and risks making the health care groups look partisan.

I think there is a much simpler solution. Health care CEOs are just greedy and really don't care about regular people who might need care.

The American Health Care Act would cut government spending on health care by cutting poor people off from insurance. This would marginally cut health care companies' profits, so you would think health care companies would strongly oppose it. But the law would also be a big tax cut for the rich

Leonhardt acknowledges as much in his column: "Virtually every big health care group views the Republican plan as a disaster, one that would harm many Americans largely in the service of cutting taxes for the wealthy."

The simple fact is, lobbying by large health care companies is directed by industry CEOs and other top corporate officers. All of these people will see their taxes cut by the law. Even if the law makes their companies slightly less profitable on net, most will likely be personally better off. The fact that the law would hurt a lot of poor people simply doesn't bother them that much.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest health care industry leaders are willing to put personal and corporate gain above the public good. During the negotiation with President Obama over the Affordable Care Act, the industry's top demand wasn't "make sure everyone has coverage." Instead, PhRMA pressed Obama to oppose drug re-importation and to keep Medicare from negotiating drug prices; this kept drug profits high. Similarly, hospitals wanted the ACA to omit a public option that would reduce their profits. The hospitals made this demand knowing full well that the absence of a public option would increase costs, resulting in the law covering fewer people.

For many rich people, greed is more motivating than principle. In many cases, greed is what drove them to become rich in the first place. Leonhardt writes, "I feel a pang of discomfort every time I describe the radicalism of today’s Republican Party." It can also be uncomfortable to acknowledge that many people are simply greedy.

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