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My Ron Pollack Problem–And Yours

by RUSSELL MOKHIBER

Karen Ignagni is not the problem.

As president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, Karen Ignagni represents the health insurance industry.

The same health insurance industry that would be wiped out by a single payer national health insurance system.

We know where Karen Ignagni stands.

She stands with the health insurance industry.

Against the will of the American people.

If she stood with the will of the American people, she would effectively be asking her member insurance companies to commit suicide.

Not going to happen.

Ron Pollack is executive director of Families USA.

Ron Pollack identifies himself as a consumer advocate.

Or more precisely as an advocate for health care consumers.

The majority of the American people stand with single payer.

And against the health insurance industry.

And against the pharmaceutical industry.

But Ron Pollack stands against single payer.

Against the will of the American people.

With the health insurance industry.

And with the pharmaceutical industry.

Think we’re kidding?

Well, on Thursday at 3 p.m., Ron Pollack will join Karen Ignagni in a live web chat to discuss “health reform.”

The live web chat is sponsored by The Campaign for an American Solution.

The Campaign for an American Solution is a fake grassroots group created by the health insurance industry.

The idea is that we can’t have single payer because it’s not American.

Or as Senator Max Baucus put it when asked about single payer last month – “We have come up with a uniquely American solution which is a combination of public and private, because we are America.”

Yes we are, Max.

But there is a uniquely American solution and it’s called single payer.

Check out Jonathan Cohn’s New Republic interview with Michael Chen of Taiwan’s single payer system. Chen told Cohn that when Taiwan was in our predicament years ago, they searched the world for a better health care system. They came to the United States and studied Medicare. And they then went back to Taiwan and modeled their single payer system on Medicare.

Anyway, on Thursday at 3 p.m.,this so called consumer advocate, Ron Pollack, will be standing with Karen Ignagni, advocating against single payer.

Last week, Ron Pollack joined with Billy Tauzin, the head of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, and unveiled “a campaign to promote three key policies designed to help achieve high-quality, affordable health coverage for all Americans.”

None of which will do anything to fundamentally alter the private health insurance industry and drug industry’s death grip on America’s health consumers.

So, no Karen Ignagni is not the problem.

Billy Tauzin is not the problem.

The Republican Party is not the problem.

We know where they stand.

They stand with big corporations.

Against the American people.

The problem is Ron Pollack.

The problem is Max Baucus.

The problem is the Democratic Party.

The problem lies with people who say they stand with the people.

But end up standing with Billy Tauzin.

And Karen Ignagni.

And big pharma.

And the private health insurance industry.

The problem is that the so called opposition is no opposition at all.

Yesterday, I attended a conference on Capitol Hill sponsored by the Alliance for Health Reform – another “collegial group.”

Dirksen 106 was packed with over 200 staffers and lobbyists.

The topic: Public Plan Option: Fair Competition or a Recipe for Crowd Out?

There were four people on the panel.

Two argued against giving consumers a choice between public plan and private plan – Karen Ignagni and Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation.

Two argued for giving consumers a choice for a public plan – John Holahan of the Urban Institute and Karen Davis of the Commonwealth Fund.

In opening remarks, John Holahan was downright defensive.

Holahan said a public plan was not part of a “a secret plot to destroy the insurance industry and bring about a single payer system.”

There were no advocates for single payer at the table.

Of the 75 or so health policy experts listed in the packet, I couldn’t find one advocate for single payer.

So, when question time arrived, I got to a microphone:

“John Holahan said that he’s not part of a secret plot to destroy the insurance industry,” I said. “But there is actually a public plot to destroy the private insurance industry. It’s called HR 676. It’s single payer. And it has 76 members of the House who support it. The Lewin Group did a side by side analysis of all of the plans, and they found that single payer saves the most money. The single payer idea is that the private health insurance industry deserves to be destroyed. In Canada and the UK it’s unlawful to sell private health insurance for basic health needs. That’s the idea behind single payer. Other than the fact that it would be the death penalty to Karen Ignagni’s companies, why not do it?”

Out of deference to Karen Ignagni, the panelists pretty much ignored the question.

It was as if the question hadn’t been asked.

That’s the problem with collegiality.

The industry is facing the death penalty.

It’s either them.

Or us.

No amount of collegiality can mask that stark reality.

RUSSELL MOKHIBER is editor of Corporate Crime Reporter and founder of singlepayeraction.org

 

Russell Mokhiber edits the Corporate Crime Reporter.

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