Thursday, June 25, 2009

We Need To Eliminate "For-Profit" Health Insurance

And if we were to execute a few of the executives, as a 'lesson' to those remaining, that wouldn't be a bad idea either. At least clap 'em the pillories for a couple of days. CJR's Trudy Lieberman had this story earlier in the week. I was gonna post it, but neglected to do so. Now it has appeared on "Raw Story."
A retired health insurance executive — in a shocking but not terribly surprising admission — confessed Wednesday that insurance companies deliberately confuse policyholders and attempt to dump sick patients to plump their profit margins.

“[T]hey confuse their customers and dump the sick, all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors,” former Cigna senior executive Wendell Potter told senators at a hearing on health insurance Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

“Potter, who has more than 20 years of experience working in public relations for insurance companies Cigna and Humana, said companies routinely drop seriously ill policyholders so they can meet “Wall Street’s relentless profit expectations,’” Potter told the hearing, according to ABC News.

“They look carefully to see if a sick policyholder may have omitted a minor illness, a pre-existing condition, when applying for coverage, and then they use that as justification to cancel the policy, even if the enrollee has never missed a premium payment,” Potter added. “(D)umping a small number of enrollees can have a big effect on the bottom line.”
Lieberman's summary of Potter's story:
Last week, (the LATimes) covered the testimony insurance executives gave before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and offered readers some insight into industry-think. The executives told Congress that they would continue to rescind coverage for people who unintentionally fail to disclose what insurers consider preexisting conditions when applying for health insurance. UnitedHealth Group, WellPoint, and Assurant Inc. have cancelled some 20,000 policies, leaving policyholders stuck with medical bills. Sometimes, companies cite even the flimsiest evidence of deceit in order to justify rescinding their coverage. And sometimes they’ve paid bonuses to staffers who help purge their books of policyholders likely to file expensive claims.
A few of Potter's more provocative admissions:
I didn’t want to be part of another health insurance industry effort to shape reform that would benefit the industry at the expense of the public...

A couple of years ago I was in Tennessee and saw an ad for a health expedition in the nearby town of Wise, Virginia. Out of curiosity I went and was overwhelmed by what I saw. Hundreds of people were standing in line to get free medical care in animal stalls. Some had camped out the night before in the rain. It was like being in a different country. It moved me to tears. Shortly afterward I was flying in a corporate jet and realized someone’s insurance premiums were paying for me to fly that way. I knew it wasn’t long before I had to leave the industry. It was like my road to Damascus...

I was in a unique position to know how companies made money—what they had to do to satisfy shareholders—and how the industry has been able to kill reform in the past. I had been part of those efforts and didn’t want to be part of them again...

(T)he media has lost interest in writing stories similar to the managed care horror stories they wrote in the 1990s, when insurers and employers were forcing people into HMOs. There is less coverage of the consequences to people resulting from insurance company practices. A lot of critical reporting is just not being done. Most reporters willingly accept a prepared statement that company executives and lawyers have written, and they feel their obligation is over. The calls we got were few and far between after the media lost interest in managed care.
There's a lot more. I think Obama could have spent all the time he wasted with ABC this week interviewing Potter in prime time, and then going on the offensive, if he really gave a runny shit about the people's health-care...

But he doesn't.

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