LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Byron can’t let go

Letters to the Editor/Opinion by

Re: “A disingenuous debate” by Max Silverman (26.1.10)

Max Silverman is woefully misinformed as to the terms of the debate over health care here in the United States – as are most Canadians. While it might feel good to sneer about the American system of government being beholden to “corporate interests” (especially in the wake of the Citizens United case), can we all adopt a little nuance here and recognize that corporations have a spectrum of competing interests, not all of which align in perfect lockstep unison?

The truth about the health care debate is that the insurance companies and HMOs were relatively cooperative early in the debate over health care reform. Why? Because the proposed reforms would have brought 20 to 30 million new subscribers onto their rolls, and made government money available to some of them to make sure they could afford insurance. It represented potential profit and market expansion. They only revolted publicly when it became clear that the so-called “individual mandate” – that people purchase insurance or face fines – was in danger of being stripped from the bill.

And it was the “American Right’s” hissy fit over the individual mandate being “compulsory” or “socialism” that made that provision endangered in the first place. In short, the “American Right” and the insurance companies came down on opposite sides of the issue – if the bill passed without an individual mandate, then insurance companies would be unable to force healthy patients to buy insurance, yet they would be unable to keep expensive patients with pre-existing conditions from signing up – a disastrous public policy option. You tend to write an interesting column, Max, but try not to lapse into unsophisticated sophistry about a complicated political system that you only half understand.

– Byron C. TauB.A. 2008Former McGill Tribune Opinion Editor