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It’s time to put the insurance companies out of their misery

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If I were on trial for robbing a house, the last thing in the world I would do is give a series of public lectures on cat burglary techniques. “I’m completely innocent,” I’d say, as the sample lock clicked open. “I’ve lived a clean life. Any questions about the order in which to rifle dresser drawers?”

The health insurance companies, admittedly with the help of a few journalists and bloggers, seem intent on demonstrating just how good they are at heisting TVs and jewelry. They’re denying babies for being too fat. They’re denying babies for being too skinny. They’re denying women for having been raped. They’re charging women 84% more than men, although that last one may be par for the American course.

That’s seriously audacious. They claim they’re fighting for their lives, that health care reform is going to make it impossible for insurers to stay in business, that the public option would be the death knell of private insurance companies. And you could say that this is crazy, or this is arrogant; that they’re less like a housebreaker than like a depression-area bank robber, lauded in the press while stealing from the poor to give to the rich; Robin Hood in reverse. But in truth, they’re not crazy. These denials and “dumb moves” are so inherent in the system that it actually surprises me that Rocky Mountain Health Plans changed anything at all.

The Democrats seem to have gotten that message. “It is absolutely clear that it is an unsustainable situation as we go forward, and it is well known to the public that the health insurance companies are the problem.” Nancy Pelosi, especially, seems to have shifted into gear.

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Obama mocked the insurance companies and those who would bow to them in his speech yesterday. “Oh this is actually harder than expected, the insurance companies don’t like health reform, I guess we’ll just pack up and go home.”

I’m convinced that at least part of the reason for this hardening of rhetoric is a sense in Washington that the American people have finally started to wake up – or at least make their voices heard – about the abuses of the health insurance industry. Good. I’m not enjoying the thought of what will happen to the lower-level employees of the health insurance companies if we finally manage to deliver the coup de grace, but when I weigh them against the now-estimated 45,000 deaths a year , I have to conclude that I’m just happy that they’d have health care while they’re looking for other work.

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