At the always excellent TPMMuckraker, Zachary Roth points out the lack of competition in health care.
But the notion that most American consumers enjoy anything like a competitive marketplace for health care is flatly false. And a study issued last month by a pro-reform group makes that strikingly clear.
The report, released by Health Care for America Now (HCAN), uses data compiled by the American Medical Association to show that 94 percent of the country’s insurance markets are defined as “highly concentrated,” according to Justice Department guidelines. Predictably, that’s led to skyrocketing costs for patients, and monster profits for the big health insurers. Premiums have gone up over the past six years by more than 87 percent, on average, while profits at ten of the largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose 428 percent from 2000 to 2007.
Far from healthy market competition, HCAN describes the situation as “a market failure where a small number of large companies use their concentrated power to control premium levels, benefit packages, and provider payments in the markets they dominate.”
Most Americans are not going to find this surprising, but as opponents of the public option blather on about the “free market,” it’s definitely worth keeping in mind that the health care market is about as free as the west coast electricity market was during the Enron era.
Just once I would like to see advocates of “market solutions” admit that oligopolies are a distortion in the system that have to be addressed, or things break down. But then, none of this is ever actually about “free markets,” it’s about lining the pockets of whatever industry is paying for astro-turf groups to sing the praises of “free markets.” Just substitute the words “coal” or “banking” in their arguments and it’s always the same baloney. Actual competition is the one thing they fear most.