IBM plans to give about 110,000 retirees payments to buy coverage on a government-run health insurance exchange rather than continuing to provide benefits through its own company-sponsored health plan.
The company says the growing cost of healthcare is making its current retirees’ benefit plan unsustainable with large premium increases, The Wall Street Journal reports. Further, moving retirees to health insurance exchanges will keep it from having to manage their benefits.
IBM has told its retirees in recent weeks that if they want to keep receiving coverage, they need to pick a plan offered through Extend Health, a private Medicare exchange run by Towers Watson & Co. in New York. Extend Health, like many other private health-insurance marketplaces, is similar to the public exchanges proposed through Obamacare.
Obamacare defenders insist that it’s not a government takeover of medical care. What they won’t tell you is that it pushes the cost of private health insurance so high that private entities—especially employers, like IBM—will push people onto the government-run collectives.
A less disingenuous approach would have been simply to put the entire country on national health insurance. This was a tough sell, even in a Democratic Congress, back in 2010. So they took this back door route, instead.
The end result is the same: Americans will, absent legislative reversals, move in droves to government-run/government-mandated collectives euphemistically called “exchanges.” There’s no such thing as a “private Medicare” company. If it’s Medicare, it’s government. The same goes for Medicaid.
The dilemma in health care, for decades now, has been for government either to get the hell out of the way—or take it over altogether. Senior citizens of all income levels are already dependent on Medicare. Medicare eliminated the private market for health care and insurance for the elderly, and Obama’s law will eventually ensure the same for just about everyone else.
The only thing the federal government has not yet done is outlaw private health insurance, or fee-for-service medicine, altogether. That time may come. As more Americans, like IBM employees, become covered by government-run insurance exchanges, they’re going to run head-on into the reality of government monopolies.
Remember the post office monopoly, before email and the Internet made it largely irrelevant? That’s the direction in which health care is moving. Why? Because it’s a fact: Doctors and patients alike will be getting most (if not all) of their reimbursement from the government. When government controls all or most of the marketplace, it’s essentially a monopoly. And monopolies are neither customer-friendly nor patient-friendly.
Obamacare, since its passage, has been mostly met with confusion and ambivalence. People have a “wait and see” attitude. But the facts have been available all along.
Obamacare deliberately incentivizes companies and employers like IBM to move to government care. This is not freedom of competition. This is not a private marketplace. It’s a pseudo-marketplace in which the government sets the terms, the rules, and decides the nature of all coverage.
In principle and eventually in practice, it’s no different from Canada or any other nation where there’s only one option, and as a result all kinds of delays and red tape. Not to mention illnesses or deaths that otherwise would not have taken place.
The alternative to all this? Get government the hell out of the way. Deregulate the health insurance industry; every last bit of it. Permit individuals and larger employers to buy health insurance policies across state lines. Completely and totally open up the marketplace so that people may select from a wide variety of health care options, premiums and plans that best suit their needs and risks.
We hear a lot about private insurance companies who still make big profits. That’s only because they don’t have to compete. If you resent these fat cat insurance companies, you ought to be in favor of the free market, where they’ll have to work harder for their profits—or perish, just like in any other business. Rest assured that the biggest opponents of a free market in medicine are the companies who have the most to lose by open and unrestricted competition.
Let rational businesses—who take the hit for bad decisions—decide what makes most sense, in consultation with their customers. Make the health care field like other competitive, for-profit fields—no different from computers, cell phones, and other technologies where prices always stabilize and innovation remains the norm. Phase out government programs and gradually defund them so people will realize they must shop in the marketplace for health insurance, just like they already do for things like groceries, automobiles and phones. Privatize Medicare for today’s younger generations; most younger people recognize that with trillion dollar deficits, these programs cannot sustain themselves anyway.
Most of all, get politicians the hell out of way. Politics and medicine do not mix. The last people to entrust with your health and well-being are the type of people in control of Washington DC at present.
Dr Michael Hurd
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