Priorities, Priorities, Priorities
By Jon Bailey
Some of the policymakers determining health care reform need to get their priorities straight.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has apparently decided his perceived view of the non-competitive nature of college football is the most egregious violation of the nation’s antitrust laws and deserves the immediate attention of both Congress and the U.S. Department of Justice. At a Senate hearing on July 7 convened to investigate college football’s Bowl Championship Series (BCS), an article from Fox Sports had this to say:
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch urged the Justice Department on Tuesday to investigate college football's Bowl Championship Series for what he views as violations of antitrust laws. Hatch made the comment after conducting a standing-room-only hearing in the Senate subcommittee with antitrust oversight, where he serves as the top Republican. "Frankly, there's an arrogance about the BCS that just drives me nuts," he told reporters. "Hopefully this hearing will open the door to have some people reconsider their positions. And if nothing else, the Justice Department ought to be looking at this." He said that it's clear to him that the BCS is in violation of antitrust laws. The Justice Department had no immediate comment Tuesday. Hatch said that the BCS is exploiting a position of power, "and it's just not right."
Hatch is still upset that an undefeated University of Utah team was denied an opportunity to play in the 2009 BCS national championship game because they do not happen to fortunate enough to belong to one of the six BCS football conferences.
A little perspective here - my wife and children will tell you that I’m as big a college football fan as there is, always have been, always will. But really, is college football deserving of this Congressional attention and antitrust prosecution threats when there are so many important issues that affect the nation and its residents?
Like, for example, health care.
According to the report Premiums Soaring in Consolidated Health Insurance Market, 94 percent of statewide health insurance markets are deemed “highly concentrated” under Department of Justice guidelines. The DOJ considers a market highly concentrated if one company holds more than a 42 percent share of the market. Thirty-two states in the nation meet this threshold. The result of a concentrated health insurance market is less affordable insurance, more uninsured and less choice for everyone – precisely the issues that Congress must address in health care reform legislation.
Utah is one of the 32 states with a highly concentrated health insurance market – 68 percent of the market is controlled by the top two insurers (with Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield controlling 47 percent of the market). The result has been that health insurance premiums in Utah rose 87 percent between 2000 and 2007, while individual income increased only 17 percent during the same period.
Since Hatch happens to a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, one of the Congressional committees now working on health care reform legislation, just for fun let’s substitute some of Senator Hatch’s criticism about the BCS with hypothetical criticism for health insurance companies:
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch urged the Justice Department on Tuesday to investigate the nation’s health insurance companies for what he views as violations of antitrust laws. Hatch made the comment after conducting a standing-room-only hearing in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, where he serves as a former chairman and a top Republican. "Frankly, there's an arrogance about the health insurance companies that just drives me nuts," he told reporters. "Hopefully this hearing will open the door to have some people reconsider their positions. And if nothing else, the Justice Department ought to be looking at this." He said that it's clear to him that health insurance companies are in violation of antitrust laws. The Justice Department had no immediate comment Tuesday. Hatch said that health insurance companies are exploiting a position of power, "and it’s just not right."
Sound like something that should be said? Yes.
Sound like something that will be said? I'm not holding my breath.
No matter how necessary health care reform is, no matter the situation many American individuals, families, and businesses (especially those in rural America) find themselves due to the lack of affordable, quality health insurance, no matter the importance of creating a high-quality system that takes up 18 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, let’s by all means spend more time on developing a fair and competitive college football system that makes fans, boosters, college administrators and U.S. Senators proud. (insert heavy amounts of sarcasm here)
For a real request for antitrust examination of health insurance companies see this report.