Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Solution to the UPMC-Highmark Feud

In Wednesday’s piece by Steve Twedt, entitled “State threatens to intervene in UPMC-Highmark feud” state insurance commissioner Michael Consedine characterized some recent statements from the two organizations as "alarming" for consumers, businesses and physicians. "That's not a good thing for the marketplace," he said in a phone interview Tuesday. "We're still in a free market here," They have the ability to make their own business decisions, so we don't have the ability to say, 'You have to do a deal.'"

In actual fact, there is no such thing as a "free market." Markets are the creation of government. Governments provide a stable currency to make markets possible. The rules of the game of business are defined by government. Any sports fan can tell you that football, baseball, or hockey without rules and referees would be a mess. The conservative mantra is "let the market decide." But there is no market independent of government, so what they're really saying is, "Stop corporations from defending workers and building a middle class, and let the corporations decide how much to pay for labor and how to trade." This is, at best, destructive to national and international economies, and, at worst, destructive to democracy itself.

I have an idea of how this is going to turn out. UPMC will win, because it’s the largest monopoly in town, and they will raise their rates, because that’s what corporations are legally mandated to do - make money. It is illegal in every other industrialized country in the world to make profit from providing health care, and that’s why it costs so much here. The two largest buildings in town are UPMC and Highmark. Here’s a solution. Why doesn’t Pennsylvania get rid of them both by doing what Vermont recently did by enacting single payer health care?