The analogy works as well as Dan Quayle spells…

Bruce Bodaken, the CEO of Blue Shield, has been a positive voice in the debate on universal health care, even if his company’s action have not always been so.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, he uses the analogy of Social Security to make the case for an “individual mandate” to buy his company’s product, or those of other health insurers.

I know Social Security. I pay into into Social Security. My parents depend on Social Security. Social Security is my friend.

Blue Shield, you are no Social Security.

Social Security has a defined benefit. Blue Shield does not, and opposes defined benefits. Social Security taxes take into account my ability to pay, since they are based on a percentage of my income. Blue Shield premiums and cost sharing are not. If there are changes to Social Security costs or benefits, they are made in a democratic process. Blue Shield changes their plans’ costs and benefits unilaterally, without public oversight.

The larger point is right: Everybody has a part to play to reform our health care system. Everyone should pay in, but the question is, to who? And under what conditions? Whether it is affordable?

Blue Shield suggests one political deal: if everybody is required to take up coverage, insurers should be required to cover everybody. It’s an important step for Blue Shield, but the policy of “guaranteed issue” is only one of several consumer protections needed for those buying coverage as individuals, without employer or public program coverage. It doesn’t have to be as good an arrangement as Social Security–even in a private pension arrangement, there’s a better bargain struck between workers and the employer, especially if the workers have some collective bargaining power.

As a statewide health care consumer group, we are supportive of group coverage, where people have the power of bulk purchasing to get the best possible deal. Blue Shield’s belief is not a bargain for consumers.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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