America’s third largest health insurer, Aetna, made the stunning decision this week to pull out of the health insurance exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act in all but four states. The withdrawal from the exchanges signals Aetna’s willingness to fight dirty and put the health of American citizens at risk in retaliation for the Obama administration’s refusal to approve the healthcare giant’s planned merger with Humana, the country’s fourth largest insurer, which would catapult the two to the second largest healthcare corporation in the nation in possible violation of anti-trust laws.
The Obama Administration feels that the loss of revenue from participating in the state-run healthcare exchanges wasn’t sufficient enough to justify the merger. For its part, Aetna sent a letter to the Justice Department in July threatening to pull out of the exchanges if the merger wasn’t approved, some 16 days before the White House declared its intention to oppose the merger.
But to put the fight in perspective, two other health insurance giants whose planned merger is also opposed by the Obama administration – Cigna and Anthem – are not pulling out of the Obamacare exchanges in protest.
The decision is a huge blow to President Obama’s landmark healthcare bill, a vindication for Obamacare’s conservative critics, and a slap in the face to millions of Americans who were able to finally get health insurance under the ACA. It just goes to show how easily American corporations will use the health and well-being of the people as a bargaining chip in their endless hunt for more profits, a nod to the greed which led to millions of Americans not having insurance in the first place.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) resoundingly denounced the move and used this flagrant expression of corporate avarice as an opportunity to call once again for a single-payer universal healthcare system. “In my view, the provision of health care cannot continue to be dependent upon the whims and market projections of large private insurance companies whose only goal is to make as much profit as possible. That is why we need to join every other major country on earth and guarantee health care to all as a right, not a privilege. These companies are more concerned with making huge profits than ensuring access to health care for all Americans.”
Capitalism does much good in the world; but it is unacceptable to have the health and well-being of the American people be at the mercy of the rich oligarchs who sit on the boards of multinational corporations.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.