You cannot fight if you don't know who is fighting you, and we have lacked imagination in how we've pursued the public option. While we are intellectually aware that the root of the opposition to this crucial reform (indeed, to any healthcare reform) has been the insurance industry - noting how they fund and fuel the deather phenomenon - I personally have not seen an emphasis on calls for protest marches on the headquarters of these companies. And certainly nowhere near the level of sturm und drang directed at members of our own party. We need outside-the-box ideas for how we can circumvent the insurance industry in obtaining healthcare so that we can boycott them, and we should directly, assertively engage the executives of these companies in a dialog to let them know our position and demand serious responses to our concerns. More after the fold.
Now, you may be thinking, "Why not 'assertively engage' with our elected Democratic representatives to do their jobs and represent us?" We should absolutely do that - everything we are doing on the protest / writing / phone-banking front is at least a rational response to the problem, even if some of the rhetoric can get a little silly or cannibalistic. But while recognizing that it's all necessary, I would ask whether anything we're doing comes anywhere close to being a strategically Decisive Move?
Liberals (and I am certainly one) have a lot of growing up to do as wielders of sovereign political power. It is not a happy realization that we could potentially achieve better results by confronting insurance executives than talking to our elected officials - indeed, the realization carries with it a burdensome understanding about the current state of our politics, and in where we have allowed power to become concentrated.
We regularly talk about how powerful corporations are, and yet we do not reflect that perception in how we approach countering them. We do not fight them as if they were powerful, but as if they were little more than their deather fronts - as if they did not have a whole other level of power born of their lobbying resources. Let me state this clearly: The deathers and media mouthpieces are totally irrelevant. We love to focus on them because they're weak, and treating them as our key opponents enhances our egos and makes us less afraid. Deathers are violent and determined, but self-destructive, and the media has been steadily devouring its own ability to influence America for over a decade. It is not our objective to cleanse the nation of all evil or stupidity, so countering deathers and media hacks should not be our strongest focus.
Furthermore, Democrats are not your enemies, even ones that are weak and seemingly "in bed" with the insurance companies. Weak people corrupted to lobbyist influence get into power usually because their constituents are weak relative to those lobbies. They are selected by the process as it is exists in reality, weeding out morally stronger candidates because such people tend not to understand how power works. Weak leaders don't either, but they can sense and respond to power, and that makes them acceptable to it.
In addition, President Obama is your friend in this fight. He talks to everyone, seeks to address everyone's concerns, and attempts to encompass the logistics in such a way that resembles "triangulation" only about to the extent that calculus is addition (it is, but vastly more powerful). Rahm Emanuel, Kathleen Sebelius, et al are some of our hydra heads - our upside-down version of "astroturfing" giving us weight among cynical insiders. But they can't realistically overcome a hundred-billion-dollar industry lobbying group cynically allied with the Republican Party in the short-term, and liberal grassroots activism doesn't necessarily have a salutary effect on Blue Dogs...hence the stalemate to which we've been brought.
We will definitely achieve universal healthcare: This President is neither a fool nor a liar, and he will not call a bill a success that he does not see as one. But there are no guarantees about what that will exactly look like, how long it will take to pass, and how much we will have to give away on other fronts to make it happen. Here on Daily Kos we have very specific ideas about what we want to see happen and when, and we have more than acknowledged that it isn't sufficient or fair to sit back and demand that President Obama do all the work for us. But how effective we are at the activism we engage in (indeed, at anything anyone does, ever) depends on a certain level of strategic thinking.
So here is the key point: Compared to the time and effort we spend trying to shout down idiot deathers or be more impressive to weak officials than a billion-dollar lobbying blitz, we spend essentially no time directly confronting or subverting the insurance industry - the organizations directly responsible for it all, who both make reform necessary and go out of their way to thwart it. This is a gargantuan, hugely powerful enemy, and you fight them by fighting them, not their puppets. You make what they're doing more expensive, not allow them to make siding with the People expensive for our constitutional officers by whipping up deather mobs and terrorists against us.
And make no mistake, it is this industry fueling that phenomenon, and recklessly contributing money extorted from us as patients to undermining our democracy and intimidating those We The People chose as lawmakers. We did not elect the boards or the executives of these companies, we elected Congress, so if those boards are dictating terms to elected leaders, I guess we have no choice but to let our displeasure be known to those who have appointed themselves to set the rules for us.
Now, there are certainly more informed people than I on the exact details of this industry's operations, and I invite them to contribute any potentially useful information here. But most of us already have regular contact with a health insurance company by necessity, so my guess is the majority have at least one company whose inhuman greed and perfidy we can personally attest to. I invite your personal stories and any details of the companies responsible that you'd like to share.
It would be additionally helpful to know specifically which insurance companies are responsible for the deathers and the pressure on our leadership, and which (if any) have behaved like citizens of the United States rather than vultures trying to feast on its flesh in a time of national weakness. But in this case, lack of information does not necessarily hinder us, and actually gives us a useful fulcrum: Respond to all health insurance companies as part of the problem, and let prove they're on board with the American people. Let them prove the money they extort from us - that they steal by effectively threatening our lives with denial of care, which they do anyway as soon as we become inconvenient - is not being used to cement their privilege and fuel terrorist threats against Congress and the President.
Remember, corporations are allowed to do business at the pleasure of The People alone: A corporation is not a citizen, no matter what a corrupt court said a century ago, and certainly has no right to be doing what the insurance industry is doing to our republic. The people are the sole possessors of sovereign power in this nation, and the sole originators of all economic value, and the insurance industry (among many others) has forgotten that. In fact, they do not believe it. Perhaps it is time we sat down for a friendly chat and reminded them.
Most have seen graphs like this for years, but stop to consider what they really mean in the context of soaring health insurance profits:
[Mid-diary Update: This chart, courtesy of Pluto and noted in Comments with another helpful one, expresses the point even better:
I don't know about you, but I never agreed to pay a tax to Cigna, or let AHIP dictate their own terms to the people I chose to make laws in this country. I never elected the insurance industry to decide how much of my income they would like to strong-arm from me in exchange for allowing me to exist. We have seen many great diaries showing how the real "Death Panels" occur in the offices of these companies, where the lives of American citizens are reduced to a formula whose outcome determines if you are worth keeping alive or more profitable dead. Well, here's the story: It's not their decision, so we should stop letting them decide. We decided when we elected Barack Obama President and gave Democrats a filibuster-proof majority, and they're interfering with that decision. They are sabotaging the Constitution in order to keep robbing us - as if the ravings of their deather loons were a case of Freudian projection.
Everyone who has been so diligent in emailing, writing letters to Congress, sending faxes, phonebanking, showing up at town halls, etc. - keep doing what you're doing, insofar as you feel that it helps, but we need you to also start talking to the insurance companies. Start figuring out ways to punish their profit margin immediately, and let them know that their myopic assaults on our democracy are trying our patience.
Those in a position to do so and a whole lot of courage, consider cancelling your policies. Those who laugh in the face of collections agencies, consider just no longer paying your premiums, but continuing to use your coverage as much as you need. Those who work in the health insurance industry: If you're already on the cusp of changing careers, and already have things well-lined up, you might consider making up a story about how you're quitting in protest and sending a memo (or email, or letter, if you're not high enough to send memos) to everyone up the chain of command about it. If not, don't feel bad about remaining at your job - you may still be in a position to help as time goes on.
Which brings me to this sub-point: Don't blame employees of these businesses beneath the executive level, even if they're the ones who implement their bosses' claims-denial policies on a daily basis. Even if you believe they bear some level of moral responsibility for being hatchet-men, it would be a strategic mistake and waste of our energy to be giving such people a hard time. It may, however, be useful to talk to anyone you personally know who works in such a capacity - some of them may be willing, if approached sensitively, to be heroic and flout the inhuman directives of their companies by refusing to deny valid claims. And if some chose to go the full nine yards in approving claims until they got fired, well, that's just too bad for 0.000001 cents of the share price, but damn good news for some lucky working families.
AHIP ("America's Health Insurance Plans" - love how patriotic that sounds, don't you? LOL) helpfully provides a list of health insurance company websites, so in visiting and contacting them, remember: You are the owners of this country, and these corporate entities are legal fictions that we because they supposedly benefit our society. This industry sure as hell isn't doing so, so respond appropriately to it - like you would to any guest in your house who had trashed the place and sold off your furniture.
If we can't make Max Baucus et al to listen to us, perhaps we can convince their true bosses. Or, at the very least, we can know that our efforts are directed against the real power behind the deather lunacy and official cowardice keeping the American people from having healthcare. Fight them, because they're already fighting you, and using money they extorted from you to do it!
Note: If anyone has already addressed this here and I missed it, I certainly appreciate that, and am simply characterizing my own awareness of the situation (or lack thereof, as the case may be).