A perfect storm of propaganda on health insurance reform

By Jonathan McKane, Special to the BDN
Posted Sept. 10, 2012, at 12:04 p.m.

A phony report from a phony consumer group, a misleading OpEd by a left-wing legislator and a dose of extreme demagoguery from a BDN columnist have created a well-orchestrated perfect storm of propaganda. But no one should be buying it.

This onslaught of misinformation is meant to discredit the recent health insurance reform passed by the Republican-led 125th Legislature. Although rate hikes under the new Public Law 90 for most Mainers are the smallest in years (many are even seeing reductions), this trio and their comrades are hellbent on sending a different message.

Their goal is to go back to the days of Dirigo Health, extreme health care and health insurance regulations and more Mainers on medical welfare.

The tempest-in-a-teapot started with a “report” from the well-funded, pro-government-health-care lobbying group, “Consumers for Affordable Healthcare.” Their “report” — although few could seriously call it that — cherry-picked numbers, ignored positive new trends and is basically spin.

It failed to take into account the recent rate increases by Anthem and Harvard-Pilgrim that are the lowest ever, and this, according to the Bureau of Insurance, is because of PL 90, the law so maligned by “Consumers” for Affordable Health Care.

The report described higher taxes but didn’t mention that they are only half of the infamous Dirigo Tax, which is now being phased out.

The report cites “worsened product choices,” but the fact is that there are many new products available. Anthem has announced a new product that covers maternity care, combines out-of-pocket costs and is compatible with tax-advantaged health savings accounts. This product is a direct result of PL 90.

The report also failed to look at past rate increases. According to the Maine Bureau of Insurance, Maine’s average yearly rate of increase in the small-group market over the past 10 years has been around 19 percent. In the individual market, the average increase has been 13 percent.

This is a result of decades of Hail Mary liberal experiments, all of which were cheered on by Consumers for Affordable Health Care. Their brainstorms included community rating, which prevented insurance companies from charging young people less than old people. They instituted mandates that forced expensive policies for coverage many people simply didn’t want to pay for. They championed Dirigo Health, which failed to come close to any of its goals, ate up hundreds of millions in tax dollars and delayed real health insurance reform. Maine’s gigantic medical welfare program, MaineCare, has also had an adverse effect on health insurance rates.

There were more experiments, too numerous to mention, that ultimately forced prices up. We never saw a “report” from “Consumers” for Affordable Health Care when all of them failed, when our premiums suffered hyper-increases, when all insurance companies but two left Maine because of our onerous regulatory environment, and when our medical welfare population, percentagewise, became the largest in the country.

Rep. Adam Goode’s misleading and inaccurate OpEd (Sept. 4) is more of the same. While cherry-picking a few rate increases, it completely ignores the facts about the reforms of PL 90 and the positive results. This kind of hyperbole sells well to the Maine People’s Alliance crowd, but working Mainers see through this nonsense.

Columnist David Farmer’s piece (Sept. 5) is an over-the-top, partisan hit job. Its purpose is not to enlighten readers with facts but to destroy with demagoguery. The basis of his piece is the phony report. He exaggerates the results, denigrates Republicans and insinuates malevolence that is unfounded, unfair and insulting. It is meant to frighten. It’s all he has. His side has failed and failed again.

PL 90 is slowly providing relief to Maine’s petri-dish insurance market. The reforms in the new law, which are in complete compliance with ObamaCare, have been well-tested across the country and will bring Maine’s insurance market closer to normalcy.

Among other things, it changes community rating rules, allowing young people to benefit from their low risk. It provides a reinsurance pool so the least healthy can get coverage at reasonable rates. Moreover, it permits more businesses to band together and self-insure. It likewise allows out-of-state purchase of insurance for individuals in 2014.

Maine people have suffered for years as guinea pigs for all of the latest left-wing health care experiments. Correcting this injustice won’t happen overnight. While PL 90 has only been in effect for a few months and has not been fully implemented, good news is coming in already. You’d never know it, however, if you were in the path of this perfect storm of propaganda.

State Rep. Jonathan McKane, R-Newcastle, serves on the Insurance and Financial Services Committee. He is in his fourth term in the Legislature.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/09/10/opinion/a-perfect-storm-of-propaganda-on-health-insurance-reform/ printed on July 25, 2014