Monopoly Money

by digby

Our good friend Senator Blanche Lincoln thinks it's very dangerous for the insurance companies to have to compete with a public plan option:

“One of our biggest concerns is that it doesn’t need to be a government plan that usurps that ability to compete in the marketplace, which I’m concerned that a totally government-run option would do,” she said.

Right. It's competition in the marketplace that makes this country great. Like the competition they have in Lincoln's state of Arkansas, for instance:

The Justice Department considers an industry to be “highly concentrated” if one company has 42 percent of the market. In Arkansas — Senator Lincoln should take note — Blue Cross Blue Shield has 75 percent of the market. If you take government self-insurance plans out of the equation, it's higher. The state ranks as the ninth most concentrated in the country. Is it any wonder that insurance premiums have risen five times as fast as wages?

Introducing a public plan option that individuals and businesses could choose instead of Blue Cross would be very detrimental to Blue Cross, that's true. They would lose their monopoly for sure and very likely lose a lot of customers if they kept raising rates at the clip they've been raising them:

Here is a clue to the Arkansas problem — and the national one, too. From 2000 to 2007, the median earnings of Arkansas workers rose only 12 percent, from $20,328 to $22,692. Health insurance premiums for the average working Arkansas family rose over the same period by 66 percent.

It's quite a racket. You can see why they don't want to change anything except to have the government force the few stragglers they don't already have in their clutches to buy their expensive product. Competition is the last thing they want.

Lincoln is all for the co-op concept now, which all the insurance company spokesenators are very happy about. They know that these co-ops won't be able to do anything about costs, so they will fail as often as they succeed and in the end all but the really ill will be driven into their expensive private plans, thus turning the remaining co-ops into welfare programs. Huzzah, more money for greedy CEOs and corrupt politicians. What's not to like?

Lincoln is one of the few Democratic members of the senate who sits on key committees and who is also running for re-election in 2010 in what could be a tough race. She needs to advocate for the people on this, not the insurance companies. Hell, even Arkansas Republicans hate insurance companies.

We'd like to send her a message and could use your help. If you have a couple of dollars to spare to help Blue America put some ads on the air in Arkansas to educate Lincoln's constituents about where their Senators' loyalties lie, you can do that here. Just a couple of bucks would help.