I have long held that the only economic measure that matters in the US is the stock market. While other measures such as unemployment and wage rates, income and wealth inequality, health and education measures, housing and rental prices and the like may have much greater significance for the vast majority of people, the oligarchy only cares about the value of their stock portfolio. As long as the stock market rises at a healthy clip, champagne corks will be popping even as climate change threatens to destroy the world.
Hence I was pleased to read this report that concerns about the rising popularity of Medicare for All has caused the value of health insurance stocks to fall. That is a far better measure of the rise in popularity of the idea than any number of enthusiastic citizens at town hall meetings.
Politics can be an ugly business. Health-care politics, especially so. Health-care companies that get mixed up in politics? That was $28 billion worth of ugly on Tuesday, and the stock market damage continued on Wednesday.
The slide began in earnest on Tuesday when UnitedHealth Group Inc. — treated by investors as a bellwether for the insurance sector — waded into the debate over “Medicare for All,” which would expand government-administered coverage to most of the population and rewrite the businesses of U.S. health insurers, hospitals and doctors.
Bernie Sanders has specifically called out UnitedHealthcare.
Our message to Steve Nelson and UnitedHealthcare is simple: When we are in the White House your greed is going to end. We will end the disgrace of millions of people being denied health care while a single company earns $226 billion and its CEO makes $7.5 million in compensation. https://t.co/OafOIT92H9
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) April 12, 2019
Meanwhile, 1.4 million people have lost health care coverage since 2016, major news that was swamped by the media’s fixation on the Mueller report.
The CBO estimates that the number of Americans without insurance has risen from 27.5 million in 2016 to 28.9 million in 2018, an increase of 1.4 million Americans going uninsured.
Much of that increase is concentrated in the Medicaid program, where the Trump administration has approved new rules like work requirements that can make it more difficult for low-income Americans to enroll in the program.
Let’s hope health insurance stocks continue to fall.