No, you did not read that incorrectly.
The same health insurance executive who sips fine Italian wine in his mountainside hot tub said last week that big-profit health insurance is dying:
It’s not often that you hear the leader of a Fortune 100 company publicly acknowledge the imminent demise of his venerable, profitable business model.So, it turns out that once you block parasitic insurers from not providing health care to those who need it most (i.e. those who actually have an illness), or force them to stop kicking policyholders off their plans once they get sick, health insurance is not a very profitable industry.
Yet, speaking at the HIMSS12 Conference in Las Vegas, Aetna CEO, Chairman and President Mark Bertolini, said a reckoning for the traditional health insurance model was at hand. “The system doesn’t work, it’s broke today” Bertolini told attendees. “The end of insurance companies, the way we’ve run the business in the past, is here.”
Bertolini said an amalgamation of regulatory, demographic and economic factors were driving this change. The Affordable Care Act in particular, with its ban on medical underwriting, has made the traditional health insurance business model untenable in the long term, he said.
Well, thanks, Obamacare!
And, hmm, perhaps the rest of the developed world (i.e. Canada, UK, France, Spain, Japan, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Singapore, Taiwan, Australia, etc.) has known that for years? I reckon that might be true.
The supremely-thoughtful Rick Ungar chimes in on Moneybag Bertolini's big announcement with a reminder that single payer is coming whether we like it or not:
If you are a single-payer advocate—and it is no secret that I fall within this category—you are likely pumping your fist in the air at this news. After all, when the CEO of one of the nation’s largest health care insurers waves the white flag, it’s got to be a good thing for those who wish to usher in the era of universal coverage.Ungar tempers the excitement we might feel, however, with a warning that doing single payer right will be a tough task, and it's one we should be prepared to start considering now:
Whichever side draws your support, if the war over the Affordable Care Act has taught us anything it is that there is likely to be more than enough legislators to block an effort to extend Medicare to all Americans, or some other variation of a single-payer system, for the foreseeable future. However, if the for-profit insurance companies find it no longer worth their while to stay in the business, which is my own expectation and a notion that appears to be shared by Mr. Bertolli of Aetna, a single-payer system may be thrust upon our politicians when government is the only entity large enough to take on the financial responsibility of our health care system.Ungar plans to write more on the topic of creating a sustainable Medicare-for-all (single payer) system in the coming weeks.
However it happens, and I very much believe it will, we had better be prepared—and we are not.
If single-payer is in our future, whether on a state-by-state basis or a system operated by the federal government, it would be best to set it up before we are forced into it by failed private insurance companies. That means that devising a workable program with political support from all sides is far preferable to waking up one day to find that this is the only option available to us.
Let's get the conversation started here, too, and feel free to enjoy this rare act of contrition on behalf of one of America's biggest bloodsuckers -- the end of our long, national nightmare with big-profit insurance may be coming sooner than we thought.
And, don't forget that it's the policies in Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act that forced Bertolini to arrive at this conclusion: feel free to throw a few dollars at Obama's re-election as a kind of "Bertolini waves white flag" celebratory action.
Single payer is coming -- let's do our part to make sure America has the world's best universal health care system.