The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Insuring Profits, Not People’s Health

Oct 31, 2016

Rates are going through the roof for people who buy health insurance through the ACA exchanges. In Illinois, rates will increase by about 50%. In 2017, the second-cheapest “silver” plan for the average Illinois family of four will cost $1,078 a month! In other states, the increases are similar.

And there will be fewer choices. People who live in Cook County, which includes Chicago, will have only three companies to choose from, down from seven in 2016. Last year there were five PPO plans, the type of plan that lets you choose from a bigger range of doctors. This year there will be only one PPO. Many people will have to change their plans and find new doctors.

The insurance companies who are pulling out claim that their profits weren’t high enough. Hogwash. These are some of the most profitable companies in the world. UnitedHealthcare, one of the big companies leaving the Illinois exchange, made 3.2 billion dollars in profits in the last three months. This was up 13 percent from last year. Aetna, another big insurer leaving Illinois Obamacare exchanges, made 734 million dollars in the last three months, up ten percent.

No, they’re not leaving because they’re losing money. They’re leaving in order to run a squeeze play, letting fewer companies dominate the market in each area, letting each one be more profitable still.

The federal government says that many people won’t have to pay the full cost of these price increases because of a subsidy. But the working class will still have to pay the cost, because the money for these subsidies comes out of our taxes. As the presidential debates illustrated, it’s not the rich people and corporations paying the taxes! So we pay either way, and even more of the wealth workers create will go to pump up the profits of these giant corporations.

These corporations are the ones making health care unaffordable. They provide no care. Not one vaccination, not one operation, not one life-saving drug. They just set themselves up as middlemen to amass profits.

And the Affordable Care Act protects them. Just look at who is forced to do what, under this law: ordinary people who don’t get insurance from their boss are forced to buy it on the exchange, or face a big fine. But the insurance companies aren’t forced to participate in the exchanges at all. They’re not allowed to deny coverage for “pre-existing conditions” – but they can charge everyone almost whatever they want.

The Republicans attack Obama and the Democrats for this law. But they don’t attack it for protecting the insurance companies. The Republicans say they would remove the few restrictions that exist on those companies.

These two parties and the corporations they serve will never make health care affordable or decent for working class people. We have to fix it for ourselves – to provide what we all need.