Like her ideological forebears from the last century, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is angry that businessmen who are eager to avoid a loss are raising prices.
From the LA Times, Anthem Blue Cross asked to justify controversial rate hikes :
The Obama administration called on Anthem Blue Cross on Monday to justify its controversial new rate hikes of as much as 39% for individual policyholders, saying the increases were alarming at a time when subscribers are facing skyrocketing healthcare costs.
In a letter to the company’s president, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius voiced serious concern over the rates, which go into effect March 1 for many of the insurer’s estimated 800,000 individual policyholders.
The increases have triggered widespread criticism from Anthem members and brokers, who say the premium hikes will put health coverage out of reach for some and very costly for others.
“With so many families already affected by rising costs, I was very disturbed to learn through media accounts that Anthem Blue Cross plans to raise premiums for its California customers by as much as 39%,” Sebelius wrote to company President Leslie Margolin.
“These extraordinary increases are up to 15 times faster than inflation and threaten to make healthcare unaffordable for hundreds of thousands of Californians, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet in a difficult economy.”
Let’s get one thing straight; these increases are entirely due to inflation, and they are likely largely caused by the Obama administration’s stimulus plan. Anthem executives didn’t wake up one morning and say “Hey! Let’s jack up prices so that our customers can no longer afford our product!” Rather they are increasing prices to deal with the increased costs they anticipate for the coverage they provide. Now why would they do that?
It turns out that while California has been receiving large amounts of bailout and stimulus funds, the supply of medical service providers has stayed steady. That new money has largely gone to the California State government’s payroll and to cover their administrative overhead costs. One of the largest discretionary expense most government employees have is the cost of medical insurance, and the demand for the insurance is relatively inelastic. This insurance is used to pay for a multitude of doctor’s visits etc. Thus you have a large pool of people with freshly printed money in their pockets engaged in a bidding war trying to consume an essentially static supply.The winners pay higher prices for the scarce goods, and the losers are left out in the cold.
This phenomenon is precisely how prices increase when whoever controls the money supply engages in inflation. It’s not mysterious. It’s not greed. It is merely a predictable outcome counterfeiting.
This is one favorite method used by totalitarians to justify their seizures of power. They engage in reckless government spending financed using the printing press. Then, when these newly printed funds lead to a bidding war between buyers that drives prices up, they use the price increases as a justification for even greater usurpations of power.
If Kathleen Sebelius is serious about reducing prices for health care in California, she should be penning angry letters to the head of the California Medical Licensing Board. This bullying of a company trying to stay solvent despite an economic storm created by government intervention – while making for very nice populist theater – will contributed nothing positive to the problem.