If there was ever a poster child for apparent wisdom and rational measured thought, House Democrat Chellie Pingree of Maine would be that child. The operative word there is “apparent”. She sounds so reasonable and even downright Conservative talking about lowering costs and competition. There’s just one problem, she seems to have missed a glaring hole in her own rhetoric.
In arguing for a Public Option in any health care reform she could vote for, Rep. Pingree laments the current lack of competition in Maine to benefit consumers. She actually says, on camera, in an interview with FOX’s Neil Cavuto, that in Maine, “We’re down to just about 1 insurance company.” What?? ONE insurance company? Wikipedia has an admittedly incomplete list of health insurance companies showing only those with a “strong national or regional presence.” That list has 27 entries.
Why is only one of these companies doing business in Maine? I thought the insurance industry was filled with nothing but money-grubbing, profit-seeking, expletive-deleteds. I thought all they cared about was their fatcat CEO and bigwig salaries. Per Rep. Pingree’s own admission, insurance costs are high in Maine. Why aren’t more companies out to get a piece of that pie? Or is it, perhaps, more than slightly disingenuous of the good Congressman to claim there is a lack of competition in Maine which only Government intervention can help. She claims the Maine legislature “…has tried every possible kind of insurance reform, a lot of the things that are being talked about …” But their costs are still out of control and only one insurance company wants any of the profit to be made in Maine.
Curious. One has to ask, if Maine really did do all they could to address insurance reform, doesn’t that mean Maine had a lot of screwed up insurance regulation to begin with? When did all this regulatory correction happen? It seems reasonable that if Maine had passed tough tort reform laws and taken the shackles off of their insurance industry so as to permit real competition and truly done everything possible to reform the problems with insurance someone other than Rep. Pingree would know about it. Either the Right would be screaming about the success or the Left would be screaming that they tried it the Conservative way and it failed.
Rep. Pingree finally tosses out her real reason for wanting a public option when she laments that all of the state’s effort at insurance reform “…still hasn’t been what we needed to make sure everybody in our state was covered.” The clatter of the other shoe dropping is enough to pull me back to reality.
I remember Rep. Pingree is a Democrat. I remember Maine’s federal delegation also contains Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. I recall Rep. Pingree proudly notes her own daughter is Speaker of the House in Maine. And I can’t help but think perhaps the good Congressman is exaggerating when she claims Maine did everything it could to enact insurance reform significant enough to bring about the kind of change Americans are really hoping for. If they had, the market would have spoken and Rep. Pingree wouldn’t have to. She’s right. Maine needs competition because real competition increases quality and drives down prices. If Maine had been serious about promoting competition, they wouldn’t have the situation they are currently lamenting. If the Maine legislature was serious about insurance reform, the proof would have been a lot more than a lone player in the Maine market.
But if your goal isn’t competition; if what you really want is universal coverage – your efforts and their success or lack thereof will be evaluated very differently. And therein lies the problem when the Left tries to sound Conservative without a true commitment to Conservative principles. Liberal ideas cannot bring about Conservative solutions.
Universal coverage is a Government imposed mandate on the insurance industry. It’s precisely the sort of regulation that discourages competition, drives up prices and reduces the number of insurance companies willing and able to compete in Maine. Competition is a Market driven choice by consumers based on their own needs and interests. It includes the choice not to have insurance at all. Perhaps Maine would be better served if their Democratic leaders understood what Rep. Pingree calls “… the economics of it …” At least then the good people of Maine would have information they could trust when it comes to making good choices when they are shopping for insurance.