The standard talking heads, pundits, and lobbyists have been weighing in on the President’s executive order, signed today, that adds transparency to pricing for medical procedures, among other things. In all the hot takes, I didn’t hear a single mention of the biggest thing this order could someday bring to the people: Checks on health insurance companies.
Today's landmark healthcare action continues President Trump's mission to put American patients first. pic.twitter.com/v49XxvVjTw
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) June 24, 2019
The health insurance companies themselves are very aware of this potential, which is why they’re balking already.
“Publicly disclosing competitively negotiated, proprietary rates will reduce competition and push prices higher — not lower — for consumers, patients, and taxpayers,” said Matt Eyles, CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans in a statement. He says it will perpetuate “the old days of the American health care system paying for volume over value. We know that is a formula for higher costs and worse care for everyone.”
This statement is, of course, bogus. It’s a smokescreen. It’s an attempt to confuse the masses as they try to decipher what this really means. To understand that, we have to go back to the days before Obamacare when pricing was the biggest problem with the system. Aspirins costing $15 each. Diapers costing $25 each. All the while, most Americans didn’t take notice because the bills went to the health insurance companies. Sure, patients received an itemized bill, but the bottom line was the deductible, so checking and adding up costs on several pages of the bill was not as common as it should have been.
Obamacare was envisioned to change this, but in the wrong way. Instead of working to reduce the cost of health insurance by reducing the cost of healthcare itself, Obamacare shrouded health insurance companies in even more smokescreens. It not only made it unnecessary but almost impossible to know the actual costs of things. The reason is obvious if you take a look at the industry as a whole. It behooves health insurance companies to promote higher costs of healthcare because with the mandate to buy insurance, health plans needed to justify their own high costs. They weren’t just pulling from the consumers’ wallets. Now, they were pulling from the government’s coffers, so the opportunity to raise premiums had to jibe with high costs of medical procedures.
Hospitals and drug companies were ready and willing to oblige. Their potential for profits increased under Obamacare just as health insurance companies were able to profit.
All of this may sound greedy, but these are all just side effects of Obamacare’s secretive protections. Some were going to take advantage of it, so it behooved everyone to take advantage of it. There was no incentive for competition. There was no need to charge fair pricing when the government was willing to pay high prices and force the people to do the same.
President Trump’s executive order doesn’t change any of this. But here’s the thing. If we can legislate our way out of Obamacare – a promise made by the GOP for six years before they actually had the power to do so – then the resulting free market health industry will be ripe for competition. Pricing transparency will be extremely important in a post-Obamacare world, assuming that world doesn’t go in the other direction with single-payer or Medicare-for-All.
If DC can someday finally pull the plug on Obamacare and not replace it with one of the Democrats’ worse ideas, then this executive order will be huge in a free market healthcare system with consumer knowledge and competition for business.
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