Healthcare Rate Increases Are a Political Wake Up Call for Democrats

Health insurance companies are reminding voters why we need reform. Are Democrats listening?


By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

There is a lot of room for fun and fantasy in Washington. Policy points are scored, rhetorical pistols leveled, and partisans joust with cocktail forks. And then, occasionally, reality intrudes.

Scott Brown’s election to the Senate was one such intrusion--a dramatic political upset that forced everyone inside the Beltway to pay attention to the discontent of the citizenry.

But I suspect, in the long run, that WellPoint’s Anthem Blue Cross unit’s recent announcement--that it was raising the price of health insurance by about 40 percent--will be another.

Anthem is just one of many health insurers who have been forced, in these economic hard times, to raise rates. I don’t need to tell you this; it’s probably happening in your life.

In the last few weeks I have had three friends--unprompted--tell me that they’ve been hit by huge health insurance hikes. One runs his own sales company; another is a lawyer in a small law firm, and a third was employed by a big company that had no choice but to pass higher insurance costs on to its employees.

The Republicans had a great fall frightening Americans with wild tales about what would happen if the Democratic health care plan became law. Now the health insurance companies are letting the citizenry know what will happen if it doesn’t.

In the long run, I believe the Republicans will pay a price for their obstructionism, and for their self-destructive flirtation with the kookier of the Tea Baggers.

But in the short run it’s the current crop of Democrats who will suffer--and rightly so--if they lose their nerve now and don’t dare the final march on health care reform. We gave them the keys to the capital; they have the obligation to address the crisis, and we will take the keys away if they don’t.

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