“Mega-mergers” versus Obamacare paranoia (The Health Care Crisis, Part Two)

January 21, 2016

The obsession of the right-wing with Obamacare and how the Federal government might “socialize” medicine is a long-standing resentment. One of the most popular programs administered on a national level is Medicare, but it was strongly opposed in its original formation by the Republican party and its more extreme sympathizers.

The fear of centralized control of such an intimate matter as one’s individual health has some reasonable basis. Anyone who works at a large institution knows the enormous discrepancy between the ideological claims of those who administer the institution’s programs and the actual delivery of those services. “Student success” is the mantra in higher education, but I have seen first hand how students needing classes and registered for those classes are left empty-handed. And I myself, at a critical moment in my health care between July and November, 2010, nearly died because of the bureaucratic ineptitude and indifference of my HMO medical plan; indeed, I have seen this personal experience replicated several times in the past decade and a half in my first-hand network of friends and family. The difference between the level of care announced in HMO press releases and the dilatory delivery of that care when it is needed is enough to make one highly suspicious of claims that urgent medical attention, under the thumb of HMO financial expediency, will be superior to the care that a single-payer system will deliver.

The part that I don’t understand about people’s fear of Obamacare or a single-payer system administered by the federal government is their concern about the centralization of medical power. Hey, folks – it’s already happening. All you have to do is look at the articles in newspapers about the mergers of various HMOs to understand that massive mergers of health insurers have already created a vortex of centralization that has the profit-motive as its primary engine: your health is merely an inconvenient obstacle to the maximization of that overriding urgency.

The issue of “mega-mergers” was recently the subject of a very fine article by Chad Terhune, an award-winning journalist, in the Los Angeles Times.

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-agenda-health-mergers-20160111-story.html

This article is dated January 11, 2016, and it is merely the latest installment by a reporter with an impressive backlog of articles on the health industry crisis. It appears, however, that this will be his last article as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. I heard recently that David Ulin is no longer with the LA Times, and I note with dismay on the bio page for Chad Terhune that “he left the Times in January 2016.” If so, the departure of two writers of the caliber of Ulin and Terhune is not a good sign for the future of that newspaper. I am deeply concerned about how the Times plans to cover the current debate on health care. To whom will this crucial assignment be given? I have substantial doubts that someone of Terhune’s exceptional caliber will replace him.

In the meantime, the question I have for conservatives who fulminate about Obamacare’s centralized control of medical plans is why the same vigorous disdain is not brought to bear on these mega-mergers. It seems, quite frankly, hypocritical to lambast Obama’s program on one hand, and then to shrug one’s shoulders with a “business-as-usual” slouch as companies interweave with one another in a winner-take-as-much-as-possible competition.

For Terhune’s biography, see:

http://www.latimes.com/la-bio-chad-terhune-staff.html?page=2&#