Kudos to TPM

I love when blog reporters do the work traditional outlets overlook:

As Congress gets set to take up health-care reform, there’s a crucial piece of data that hasn’t received nearly the prominence in the debate that it deserves.

Defenders of the status quo on health care like to point out that a public option will destroy the system of robust free-market competition that currently exists.

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), speaking earlier this month on Fox News, called President Obama’s plan the “first step in destroying the best health care system the world has ever known.” A public option, Shelby added, would “destroy the marketplace for health care.”

But the notion that most American consumers enjoy anything like a competitive marketplace for health care is flatly false. And a study issued last month by a pro-reform group makes that strikingly clear.

The AP and NPR picked up our report when it was released, but very few national outlets followed up or even bothered to discuss the ramifications of uber-consolidation in the private insurance marketplace.

I’m glad Zack took notice and posted a longer form explanation as to why such consolidation is problematic. In fact, every time a Republican stands up and says we have plenty of competition in the marketplace because there are 1300 insurance companies out there right now, the interviewer or opposing pundit should counter with the truth. 94% of the health insurance markets are considered “highly concentrated” by the AMA, and there is no real competition. One or two companies dominate. And instead of fighting to offer you the lowest prices and best service, they fight to see how much overpayment and stripped down service the market can bear.

Zack is right to re-emphasize the data, and he is right to start looking into the holdout Members of Congress and their campaign contributors. It’s all tied together and not tough to suss out:

That’s because insurers who control large swathes of a given market stand to see their bottom lines particularly threatened by the introduction of a lower-cost public option. So, in turn, they’ll be particularly aggressive in pulling out all the stops to pressure lawmakers to oppose the plan. Given the healthy amount of campaign dollars that some wavering members take in from the major insurers, that’s hardly encouraging.

Of course, the Senate is where the major legislative showdown will likely occur. So in some forthcoming posts, we’ll be taking a close look at just which senators have taken money from insurers who control major percentages of the state-wide market — and where those senators stand on the public option. Stay tuned…

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