Depending on your perspective, Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling upholding the “Obamacare” program was either a thumping victory for progressives everywhere or a clever corporatist / conservative flanking maneuver that makes it even less likely American citizens will ever enjoy the kind of basic access to healthcare that the rest of the developed world takes for granted.
I’ve been harshly critical of the president on the healthcare issue because I see it as something that helps a few people here and there, but that’s mainly designed as a gravy train for private health insurance interests. Many of Mr. Obama’s … I know I should say “supporters” here, but part of me is dying to use “apologists” instead … argue that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is an important foot in the door. In their view, this may be a small victory, but it paves the way for ever greater incremental reforms that lead us ultimately to a single-payor system (or at least a robust public option).
This is one of those times where I hope I’m wrong. But I’m not betting on it. A cursory glance at the stock charts of our major health insurance providers seems to indicate that most of them are either up since the SCotUS announcement or they have been up at some point since the announcement Thursday morning (in some cases, fairly significantly). And 2011, the first year of the industry-strangling Obamacare, was actually a pretty good one for insurance companies.
Health insurance companies made ever-widening profit margins in 2011, a result that defies the companies’ predictions that health care reform would put private insurers out of business, a Bloomberg Government analysis as found.
In the first three quarters of 2011, the five largest publicly traded insurers reported their best three-quarter performance of the past decade, Bloomberg found. The companies’ average operating margin widened to 8.65 percent in 2011, compared with 6.9 percent in the 18 months before the law was passed, surpassing Wall Street analysts’ expectations.
Even USA Today‘s personal finance writer says that this week’s ruling is good for insurers.
The debate about whether Obama is leading us to a healthcare promised land or straight into the maw of a GOP / Darwinian wasteland, where people are entitled to as much health as they have cash in their wallets, is further complicated for me because I have an inconvenient personal stake in the law. As I allege earlier, the PPACA only helps a few people. But as it turns out, I’m one of them. I have a pre-existing condition (Type 2 Diabetes), and as I explained back in May, good luck trying to secure health insurance if you have ever been diagnosed with one of the maladies on the checklist that everyone at these companies keeps by the phone.
So Thursday’s news pegged my ambivalence gauges. On the one hand, I pretty much agree with those who see it as a bad long-term / big-picture result. On the other hand, I don’t really want to die. I’m a guy who believes in social justice. Who believes in sacrifice. Who is morally committed to the idea that sometimes the individual has to take a bullet for the greater good. The concept of setting my own narrow interests ahead of millions of others with a genuine need is alien to me.
But am I selfishly glad that I’m not about to lose the only path to healthcare that I have? Yeah, I guess I am.
I hate that I have to process this kind of internal conflict. I hate that I have to be relievedy about something that may well be terrible for 100 million of my fellow citizens. And I suppose there is an important realization in this confused, ambivalent moment: I’ll know we have finally achieved fairness and justice when the dissonance is gone.
In the meantime, chalk one up in the Win column. Then chalk one up up in the Loss column.