By Don Monkerud
Featured writer, The Liberty Voice
Like pathetic knights of another era jousting at windmills, industry shrills attack health care reform, claiming it “tramples individual liberty” and stifles “free enterprise.”
Far from protecting individual liberty or promoting free enterprise, these forces uphold monopoly control of health care insurance that has a stranglehold on American consumers. And they pay huge sums to control the debate and twist legislation to their advantage.
Since 1998, over 400 mergers left two conglomerates in control of the huge health care insurance industry. Mergers allowed insurers to raise prices, buy influence in Congress, and redistribute cost savings to shareholders. Consolidation increased rapidly. Between 2004 and 2005, 28 health care mergers, valued at $53 billion, outpaced the number of health care mergers in the previous eight years combined.
Low interest rates, leverage and lax anti-trust enforcement by the Bush Administration allowed conglomerates to take control of the health insurance in the U.S. A 2009 report from Fortune Magazine reveals that the revenue of the top two companies account for $142 billion or 36 percent of the health care insurance market, while the top four gross $202 billion, almost three quarters of all health insurance.
“During the Bush administration, there were no enforcement actions against health insurers’ anticompetitive, deceptive or fraudulent conduct,” David Balto, senior fellow, Center for American Progress, told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in July 2009. “There was tremendous consolidation in the market, and the Justice Department simply required minor restructuring of two mergers. There were no cases against anticompetitive conduct by health insurers.”