John Cole:Hell, I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what value the insurance companies add at all. Seems like all they do is skim money off the top, add layers of paperwork, and then screw people when they get a serious illness.
This is correct. More than that, most of "health insurance" isn't really insurance at all, except for a bit of catastrophic insurance which they try to avoid paying out.
There really is no reason for them to exist.
It appeared on CNBC recently, as well, in this interview with Anthony Weiner. At about the 2:00 mark, he has to correct the newsmodel's conflation of the public option with "single payer" (an issue in itself: that's a pretty basic distinction to be f**king up this late in the game) and notes as a sort of throwaway line that he's not sure what private insurance companies are bringing to the table right now. It's a great interview, worth watching in its entirety.
Single payer plans give the government broad power to negotiate lower prices and power to consumers, who have some say over the system via their elected representatives, while dramatically streamlining the system. A public option can do these on a smaller scale, providing coverage to those who need it without discrimination and at minimal expense, while forcing insurance companies to compete with an entity that isn't interested in profits. Co-ops, so the argument goes, gives consumers a say in how their insurance organization is run and they share in the prosperity when/if it does well.
What is the advantage of private insurance? What do they offer? They are more expensive than public plans, less efficient, more capricious with their coverage, and less accountable. The only thing private companies offer, so far as I can tell, is that they will cover as much as you're willing to pay for. If you want a hospital room decked out like the Ritz, they will pay for it (for a price, of course). That's all I see, and that would still be available in most all public plans.