One Health Insurance CEO Now Opposes the Mandate; Too Late
Ron Williams, the former chairman and CEO of Aetna, the third largest health insurer by market value, has decided he opposes the health insurance mandate requiring nearly every American to have health coverage.
It would have been a lot better for the country and the health care system had he come to this revelation in, oh, say, early December of 2009.
Had Williams convinced the other health insurance CEOs to end their support for the mandate, Democrats might have abandoned the effort and worked with Republicans to find a way to encourage the uninsured to get coverage rather than penalize them for not having it.
But there was no dissuading them—at least then. I talked to several insurance CEOs while the various versions of ObamaCare were moving through the legislative process, and they all had drunk the Kool-Aid.
They were willing to accept guaranteed issue, a key component of ObamaCare that requires insurers to accept anyone regardless of any pre-existing conditions. But their price was a mandate with a very strong penalty, which was supposed to keep people from gaming the system by waiting until they needed coverage to get it. They got their mandate but a fairly weak penalty, which means millions of Americans will likely game the system.
And although the CEOs bought into the line that if you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re on the menu, they ended up as the main course anyway.
Since President Obama and most Democrats are single-payer proponents, they don’t especially like private health insurers. So once Democrats decided they needed a villain in the health care system to get their bill passed, they demonized health insurers. The legislation gave the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services huge new powers to micromanage health insurers and make their lives miserable, and it even imposed price controls on health insurer salaries.
Had the health insurers stood up for free market principles and defended long-held actuarial principles for underwriting risk, the country might have avoided the ObamaCare nightmare. The CEOs decided to cut a deal with the devil, and everyone got burned.