Skip to main content

Having the backbone to set minimum standards for health insurance

Robert Reich, professor of public policy | November 14, 2013

Democrats are showing once again they have the backbones of banana slugs.

The Affordable Care Act was meant to hold insurers to a higher standard. So it stands to reason that some insurers will have to cancel their lousy sub-standard policies.

But spineless Democrats (including my old boss Bill Clinton) are caving in to the Republican-fueled outrage that the President “misled” Americans into thinking they could keep their old lousy policies — and are now urging the White House to forget the new standards and let people keep what they had before.

And some congressional Republicans are all too eager to join them, and allow insurers to offer whatever crap they were offering before — exposing families to more than $12,700 in out-of-pocket expenses, canceling policies of people who get seriously sick, failing to cover prescription drugs, and so on.

Can we please get a grip? Whenever industry standards are lifted — a higher minimum wage, safer workplaces, non-toxic foods and drugs, safer cars — people no longer have the “freedom” to contract for the sub-standard goods and services.

But that freedom is usually a mirage because big businesses have most of the power and average people don’t have much of a choice. This has been especially the case with health insurance, which is why minimum standards here are essential.

Yes, the President might have spelled this out a bit more clearly beforehand, explaining that 95 percent of us aren’t in the private insurance market to begin with and won’t be affected, and that most of the 2 percent who lose their lousy policies and have to take better and more expensive ones will be subsidized.

But right now the President needs all the political support he can muster to hold insurers’ feet to the fire. Democrats should stand firm for a change.

Comments to “Having the backbone to set minimum standards for health insurance

  1. The messaging should have compared the substandard policies to cars without seat belts and the new, more valid policies to cars with seat belts, in both their relative value and the process of public adjustment to and acceptance of the new standard

  2. Professor Reich,

    The problem just may be that you continue to misrepresent the Affordable Care Act and the President is backed in the corner where he must tell the truth.

    One of the big lies– and there are many others- is that the insurance companies are offering “sub-standard plans” on the individual market. Rather, they are offerings plans with coverage that people are willing to buy (remember, they are not forced to buy anything right now).

    It is beyond belief that you are unable to comprehend the basics of the insurance industry: the insurance company always makes money. Every “benefit” that is covered comes with risk and a cost that is passed on to the consumer in the form of a premium. The ACA does not make this disappear: each new “benefit” increases the price of the premium. People on the individual market would not purchase all of these benefits, many of which they do not need. This is part of the reason why you must FORCE people to buy it.

    Clearly using force and possibly violence is not against your principles. If people learn the mechanics of how this law merely redistributes the cost of healthcare, it will be overturned in a heartbeat.

  3. Suddenly we’re all feeling a sinking feeling as we try to understand the President’s humility calculus. Some folks don’t want to be helped, period, he gets that. Might as well try to explain that the house always wins in Las Vegas; plenty of folks will continue to throw away their dough. My old policy was cancelled, but the PPACA works to my advantage by an order of magnitude, both financially and medically. As the wrinkles are ironed out, enrollments will increase exponentially and the advantaged will outnumber the disadvantaged ten to one. The Dems who cave now will be left standing with big targets painted on their voting records.

  4. Prof. Reich,

    I take offense to the opening of your article. As a UC Santa Cruz alum, I can most assuredly attest to the fact that Banana Slugs have far more fortitude (spinal and otherwise!) than the current leaders of the Democratic Party!

    You should not besmirch the good Banana Slug by comparing it to a politician!


    Tim Guichard

  5. Robert Reich is correct on all counts. It is time for adults to lead the conversation and
    transition to national health care coverage. Former President Clinton ought to disappear
    for awhile. He is not the President in 2013, or has he forgotten?

  6. Robert, I share your frustration. I’m going to have a tasteful plaque made for Obama’s office wall that says simply “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished (by the small minds of this world)”.


Comments are closed.