Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Health Insurers Have Cheated Consumers Out of Billions of Dollars

On Tuesday the Senate Commerce Committee released a report showing that health insurers have cheated consumer's out of billions of dollars. Though that amount seems astounding, most of us have experienced the methods used by these giant corporate criminals to extort that money from us. If you have ever had a claim denied on the basis of a clause in your policy that you didn't even know about then you have been a victim of these cold hearted bastards. Have you ever read the fine print in your health insurance policy? Most people who aren't lawyers haven't. According to testimony in the hearing the policies are written to confuse consumers on purpose.

According to the Washington Post article:

"At a committee hearing yesterday, three health-care specialists testified that insurers go to great lengths to avoid responsibility for sick people, use deliberately incomprehensible documents to mislead consumers about their benefits, and sell "junk" policies that do not cover needed care. Rockefeller said he was exploring "why consumers get such a raw deal from their insurance companies."

"...Insurers make paperwork confusing because "they realize that people will just simply give up and not pursue it" if they think they have been shortchanged..."

In New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has discovered that health insurers bilked consumer's out of millions of dollars by underpaying for out-of-network physicians and hospitals. The accomplished this by using rates determined by a database OWNED by United Health Care called Ingenix. The AG asserted in court that this database was routinely "scrubbed" of justifiably higher rates and "low-balled usual and customary rates and shifted costs from insurers to their customers.."

"Cuomo found that insurers under-reimbursed New York consumers by up to 28 percent, the report said. A dozen insurers have reached settlements agreeing to change their practices; UnitedHealth agreed to the largest payment, $50 million, to help a nonprofit organization set up a new database to replace Ingenix."

We desperately need to have a reasoned debate about the reform of health care and I know that everyone involved in delivering health care has contributed to the burden it places financially on everyday Americans. Cuomo's findings just proved what most of us have known for a long time. This hearing was a shot fired across the bow of the ship of the insurer's who have been playing hard ball to undermine real reform of the system they profit by. Many more salvos are to come and the debate seems to swing back and forth. It isn't easy to figure out what will work better than the crazy quilt of a system we now have. Don't be mislead by easy answers because they are the ones that will leave us stuck with a dysfunctional result.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

New Poll: Majority of Americans Support Public Health Insurance Option

This past week the republican lie machine has aimed it's magic words against any true reform of our broken health care system. All they have had to do to delay reform is to invoke the word's "government run" "socialized" "bureaucrats" "expensive" and "between you and your doctor" and the MSM (mainstream media) have panicked. Practically all you heard about the, still being debated, proposals was that the "public option" was dead. The public option was the plan to give Americans the option to enroll in a government sponsored non-profit making health insurance plan.

Of course when the republicans heard non-profit they knew instantly that it was a communist plot and a covert plan to turn our democracy into a socialist dictatorship, and I am not exaggerating!

Never doubt the power of a lie told often enough to become the "truth". The fact is that there is nothing a public plan would do but provide an option of a lower cost plan to poor Americans. Of course it would also pressure insurance companies to lower their prices and compete for customers. As it is the only customers the giant health insurance companies have competed for are the young and healthy. If you were sick, old or cost them a lot in claims they dumped you. If you ONCE had an illness they dumped you. For years now these greedy money mongers have had all of the power and few competitors. Because of that dynamic they have dictated the terms of coverage, co-pays, deductibles, which doctors we could see, which hospital we could go to and which procedures were medically necessary. In other words, if you want to see what it would actually be like for someone to stand between you and your doctor, just think about your health insurance company's rules.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Ralph Hall brings the Republican Lie Machine to a "Town Meeting"

On May 27th I witnessed one of the slickest displays of marketing I have ever seen. Marketing is that skill the Bush white house used so skillfully to first confuse voters and then later to fill their heads with propaganda. And for most of the past eight years it worked to further a Reaganistic vision of big bid'ness first and the hell with the rest of society. War was the answer to all international conflicts whether they were real or not. Wall Street was allowed to run hog wild and every other regulatory agency was turned into a frat house for Bush's incompetent buddies. Anyway, back to the meeting. It was titled "Americanize US Health Care Not Socialize". Ignoring the lack of proper grammar, we got the point. It turned out to have been sponsored by the Dallas Association of Health Underwriters-basically insurance sales people who sell plans to employers.

I had never seen Congressman Hall speak and I was impressed. His entire biography was read out loud as his introduction and from most of the folks attending he received a greeting appropriate for a hero. Then he feted Bush who he felt was a "great" President and trashed Obama. That got the crowd aroused with feelings of righteous indignation and anger. Then he turned folksy and went into what I can only describe as a Will Rogers mode telling funny jokes on himself and others just to show he wasn't really a mean person. When he finally spoke at all to the issue at hand, Health-Care Reform he began to paint it as essentially a back door approach to introducing a communist style of socialism to America. A woman behind me stood up to shout that "this isn't a communist country!".

It was at the point that I spoke out loud to interrupt the flow of jingoism and misinformation that was emanating from the stage. I shouted that I objected to the whole premise of calling it a community forum to share information about the details of the coming Health-Care Reform legislation with only representatives of the insurance industry allowed to present. In turn I was shouted back at by the audience and I must say that the congressman was polite. When I asked why other stakeholders in the process of reform weren't invited he just didn't respond to my question. Then several more democratic activists stood up to speak with more direct criticisms, like the perception that the insurance brokers were just afraid of losing their jobs and they were willing to destroy the mission to provide insurance to the poor to save them. Chaos ensued for a short while then the next speaker was introduced.

Reid Rasmussen, a former citizen of Canada, was next to speak. There wasn't much he said that wasn't a distortion of the facts. He intimated that when Hillary Clinton proposed over hauling health care that "he heard" "someone" suggest that her proposal was simply to adopt the Canadian model of a government run health care system. Then without a skip in his rapid fire banter he inferred that President Obama was proposing the same thing. In fact no such thing has been proposed by Obama and no such proposal has been considered in either the Senate's Finance or Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committees where the legislative proposals for heath care reform are being considered.
A proposal has been made to offer a public plan option as part of a wide range of health insurance programs.

In the time I was there the only constructive information I heard was from the second speaker, Ron Dobervich. He spoke about ways in which consumers can be more assertive and informed about their care. He advocated that people keep a copy of all of their medical records, shop for lower prices for procedures and negotiate with physicians about their fees. He gave a very accurate map of the wide variance in prices for health care within a given city. I left at this point but many more brave democrats spoke out that night after me. So what started out to be a marketing plan by insurance salespeople actually turned into a real town meeting.