Feed The Canary To The Cat?

 It is amazing to us how blithely some Washington politicians suggest that turning the health care market over to “for profit” insurance companies is the best answer to the nation’s health care problems. If they spent a few days in the “denied claims trenches” with us, they might develop a different viewpoint.

“For profit” insurance companies are in the business of making profits for their shareholders. Policyholder “protection” is just the way they make those profits.

We see it every day when disability income insurance companies deny perfectly valid claims with perfectly unsustainable excuses. Insurance companies’ first line of defense is to deny, deny, deny. Many times this tactic is enough to discourage a policyholder with a perfectly valid claim. (See “wimp”). Result: The insurance company bottom line gets the benefit of not paying the claim.

After that first line of defense, we see, delay and obfuscation with paperwork, requiring proofs that are impossible to get and are not required by the policy, interpreting language to suit the insurer’s needs and, finally, the so-called Independent Medical Examination (IME).

While the reported cases in ERISA and disability income insurance have favored the insurer because of the fear that a claimant’s doctor may have a slanted view, insurance companies actually have developed stables of servile doctors with slanted views who never seem to find a disability that they can’t find a way to overlook.

While the law as it stands still gives no more weight to a treating doctor’s diagnosis, Federal judges are realizing more and more that an IME should be scrutinized carefully.  Courts have come to realize that an Independent Medical Exam may be “independent” in name only.

Add to this the recent $40 million state settlement with MetLife where the company scrupulously searched for info to stop making benefit payments it was already making but didn’t review the same records to discover when it should start making payments to beneficiaries who were unaware of their entitlement. Not only that, MetLife didn’t make the required escheat payments to the states on these unclaimed benefits.

Also, hark back not too many years and you come up to the Unum settlement with the states in 2004 in which Unum’s totally unsavory system of dealing with disability claims was revealed for all to see.

Why, oh why would anyone, even a Washington politician, have any desire to turn the welfare of sick and elderly Medicare beneficiaries over to private insurers?

Medicare is designed to make older people’s lives a little easier when they become sick or disabled. Private insurance companies are designed to make profits for shareholders.

And, never the twain shall meet.



Medicare For All

There was a very enlightening statistic in Nicholas Kristoff’s column in the NY Times today (11/5/09) – Americans over 65 years of age have a longer life expectancy than people in the average industrialized nation, while Americans under 65 rank 31st in life expectancy (on a level with Chile and Kuwait) when compared to those nations..

The obvious reason is that people over 65 in the U.S. have the protection of “government-run health insurance” while those under 65 are left to the tender mercies of private insurance health plans or no plan at all.

With this statistic staring people in the face one can only wonder why there is such vehement opposition to a Medicare type health system for all Americans. People tend to forget that there was much the same outcry against Medicare when it was first proposed for passage in 1966. How many Medicare beneficiaries would give Medicare up today?

The latest Ken Burns TV documentary on our National Parks is a strong reminder that not everything run by the government is a flop. In fact, as shown by Burns, some are startling successes and do a lot of good for the American people..

When the statistics show that life expectancy for Americans bumps up substantially when Medicare-style health care comes into the picture, why not try it?

Who knows – in another 60 years we might find that none of us wants to give that up either!