Who Hijacked Our Country

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Our New Improved Health Insurance Industry

Just imagine that throughout your life, you’ve been known as the most ruthless cutthroat sleazy backstabbing gouging son of a bitch in town. Every time your name gets mentioned, it’s followed by “watch your back!” and “that F#!$%# $%!#&$#!!!” And now, after all these decades, you’re tired of being known as the town sleazebag (and other less printable names).

But the only way to change your terrible reputation is to change your behavior. Right?

Hell No! All you need is an image makeover.

Our HMOs provide the best medical coverage in the world, and yet for some unfathomable reason, they have an image problem. It’s all just a big misunderstanding. They haven’t been able to get their message across.

HMOs probably arouse more fury and resentment than anything this side of an AIG welfare recipient. If you saw the movie “As Good As It Gets,” you probably remember when Helen Hunt yelled out “those fuckin’ HMO bastards pieces of shit!” I saw the movie on our VCR, but I’ve heard that in theaters the audiences erupted into thundering applause when she said that. That was twelve years ago, and the health insurance industry’s reputation has gone steadily downhill since then.

What could possibly have caused such an image problem?

Aside from tailoring their soundbites, the HMOs’ biggest “change” has been to channel more of their bribe money to Democrats. Now that’s getting to the root of the problem.

cross-posted at Bring It On!



Blogger Demeur said...

I've said it once I'll repeat myself as many times as I can. This all started with Nixon who with his mighty legislative pen brought into existance the HMO. Prior to Nixon nearly all hospitals and insurance companies were non profit. With his doings we saw the downfall of healthcare as we know it. With for profit motivations insurance companies look to make the maximum profits and avoid paying out claims. With hospitals the profit squeeze on the patient was the same. Turnover times are now at their lowest level. Clinics pride themselves in assembly line medicine. Get em in and out in fifteen minutes and forget that they had to wait two hours to see a doctor. $100 to talk to a doctor for two minutes only to be told to take two asprins and see a specialist. Then there's the administrators who's job it is to make the billing process as humanly complex as possible therby adding to the bottom line. Not to forget to add as many layers between the doctor and the final bill so that too can be inflated.
Then there's the health savings account. There's a ripoff in the making. How does that work you ask? You have money taken out of your pay check to pay for health care costs. This is however a use it or loose it proposition. If at the end of the year you find that you have not been sick and used none of the money it goes to the organization administering the plan. No thank you guys I can keep that money and still get a few pennies interest in a savings account. I don't pay that much in taxes (this was set up to benefit the rich you know) for this to even come close to a benefit to me taxwise.
So all of this makeover looks nothing more than putting "lipstick on a pig" if you ask me.

March 17, 2009 at 1:24 PM  
Anonymous disease management said...

I think television played a mojor role in the HMO image. The stations are unbiased and and seem to all want to misled the public into thinking HMO is not the way to go.

March 17, 2009 at 2:24 PM  
Anonymous Bee said...

When I saw Sicko, I actually cried for some of the people in the film. And I don't, as a general rule, cry.

This healthcare system will kill us all, in the end - literally and figuratively speaking.

March 17, 2009 at 6:00 PM  
Blogger Hapi said...

hello... hapi blogging... have a nice day! just visiting here....

March 17, 2009 at 6:30 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Demeur: Yup, under Nixon is probably when we started down this slippery slope. It took awhile, but we sure are in a mess now. And it's obvious the HMOs are deliberately trying to trick people into filling out a form wrong, or "omit" something so they can be dropped from coverage.

And those health savings accounts are a sick joke. "Lipstick on a pig" is right.

Bee: Sicko was one of the best/worst emotional roller coasters of a movie I've ever seen. HMOs and the pharmaceutical industry are 2 of the biggest players -- what they want, they get.

March 17, 2009 at 6:49 PM  
Anonymous JollyRoger said...

Profit is as incompatible with healthcare delivery as it is with fire protection, or police protection. I'd love to make some of these "Markets!" wingtards have to start paying for "cop insurance." THEN, we'd grow us a whole new crop of "socialists" overnight.

March 17, 2009 at 8:44 PM  
Blogger Carlos said...

And the Right is all for paying glactic premiums for piss-poor service. That's one of the many things I don't get about the other side.

March 18, 2009 at 2:17 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

JR: Yup, "cop insurance" at high premiums, with lots of loopholes and exclusions in the coverage. That would get a rise out of the wingtards.

Carlos: Who knows what drives those people's "reasoning" (using the term loosely).

March 18, 2009 at 11:52 AM  
Blogger Snave said...

An image makeover... sheesh...

If our nation's health care system actually worked, the industry's attempts to remake its own image would not be necessary.

Carlos, not only are they willing to pay those galactic premiums for poor coverage... they're so into "oh, universal health care would hurt small businesses and employers!" that they don't realize that a tax increase on the top income bracket should easily be enough to fund universal health care! They don't see the forest for the trees (the trees that have been planted there by the insurance industry!)

Why not pay a tax of a few extra dollars a month, if that much, to get health coverage... instead of paying $800 or $1000 or more a month to get coverage for your family? What is it that these people don't understand? Would they rather pay a few dollars or pay a thousand?

Those larger employers who provide benefits for their employees wouldn't end up having to pay out as much, either. They would see their profits increase substantially. And their workers would be happier and more productive because... they would be healthier!!

When it comes to health care, why do people on the right act like elementary school kids confronted with calculus problems? Many of those of us on the left can see this is certainly not rocket science, and it is because we tend to look at the bigger picture instead of just looking at "me, me, me".

March 18, 2009 at 1:41 PM  
Anonymous S.W. anderson said...

Demeur is on target citing the for-profit paradigm as the root of the problem, and JR's analogy is perfect.

That said, my wife and I have HMO coverage and are satisfied overall. That's particularly so becuase we've had the same primary care providor for about 20 years. He's good and he cares.

It truly is a YMMV thing. We know people with fee-for-service coverage, going to individual doctors and clinics, and some are much less satisfied.

What we need is a streamlined system, single payer, with either the federal government or a quasi-public corporation acting as the insurance company for a very modest "profit" that allows it to keep a little ahead of inflation, population shifts, special needs created by calamities and such.

If you're a citizen you're covered. Go where you choose for care (not electives such as a tummy tuck). If you choose an exclusive doctor or clinic with much higher than average fees, you have to pay some difference costs.

However, rich or poor, if you've got a kid with an earache or cut yourself really bad, go to the nearest doctor, clinic, ER or whatever, and it's covered, period.

That's what we need and it's what we can have, if people will speak up for it. They must also accept that their taxes will be noticeably higher. The tradeoff is peace of mind and freedom from the kind of hassles, all the way up to going bankrupt, that so many must endure now.

March 18, 2009 at 1:51 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Snave: It's pretty funny -- an "image makeover." LOL. That's like the Ku Klux Klan saying they have an image problem. "People think we're some sort of racist group!"

If any government program will actually help people, the Right gets hysterical about "higher taxes!" But if ten times that amount goes to foreign invasions or the Prison Industrial Complex, the Right thinks that's just dandy.

SW: I don't really have a specific solution of my own, but your idea sounds good. "Either the federal government or a quasi-public corporation acting as the insurance company for a very modest 'profit'" -- sounds like a plan.

March 18, 2009 at 7:52 PM  
Anonymous Thomas said...

The answer is really simple.

Don't ever get sick. It's worked just fine for me.

Mind you, the crushing debt from the medical care following my motorcycle accident, that could use some mitigating.

But as far as actual sickness, I'm fucking golden and the HMO's can fuck themelves.

March 18, 2009 at 8:43 PM  
Anonymous Screamin' Mimi said...

Health care should never have been about money, just like basic food and shelter shouldn't be.

If you want caviar, fine, pay the high price. But everybody should be able to get bread and milk or whatever. No questions asked.

Same with health care. If I want to have cosmetic surgery, a face lift or something, I should expect to pay the premium price. But not to have my little boy's broken arm set, or for meds for asthma, or any other basic need.

Forget shining up the industry's image -- people are not stupid enough to forget that under the shiny new polish is the same old crap. At least I HOPE we're not that stupid -- ya never know!

Anyway, I support President Obama's intention to try to reform the system -- it's a big bite he's taken, and I hope he can make it work. Until then, as "Sicko" said -- don't get sick.

March 18, 2009 at 9:00 PM  
Blogger DB said...

I am a complete idiot on this issue. I know what I have (Blue Cross...PPO) but have no idea what it means nor wtf they pay for, if anything. All I know is that I live overseas and my wife needed a birth control prescription and they refused to pay for it because we got it at a military hospital instead of a dedicated Pharmacy. We tried to explain to them that the only American clinic is on base and they stock their own pharmacy, not to mention we don't speak Japanese making clinics/pharmacies near impossible. They didn't give a shit because "rules are rules"...well, at least her boss understood when we bitched about it and they paid it. I am sure everyone has similar stories about insurance companies fucking you at every opportunity though! It is almost as if insurance companies are legal pyramid scams.

March 19, 2009 at 6:47 AM  
Anonymous S.W. anderson said...

DB, what happened to your wife is exactly the kind of thing that should never happen. If BC pills were prescribed, it shouldn't matter where you got them, provided the price wasn't wildly out of line. But even if it had been, that's something for the insurer to take up with the pharmacy.

The military benefits from bargaining most drug prices on the basis of huge-quantity purchases. Nonmilitary civilian government employees are probably charged a slightly higher price to cover a bit of extra paperwork. For something as run of the mill as BC pills, maybe not.

Perfect example of a health care insurer grasping at the slightest irregularity, trying to avoid paying. I'm glad they finally had to come through.

Just imagine if your situation was having a child with leukemia who needs a super-expensive drug still considered experimental. You can't imagine the rigamarole.

Single payer, folks, single payer. We need to be in this together and to help one another along.

March 19, 2009 at 1:20 PM  
Blogger Ricardo said...

Sadly this strategy will work well and keeping the usual garbage the same. I could never work in an insurance company because it's all about making people feel like you need it then working the fine print to have the insurance company run away when people do need it. It's a very shady business.

March 20, 2009 at 4:10 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Thomas: Yup, "don't get sick" seems to be the only way the HMOs can't fuck people over.

SM: I agree. If it's something that a person wants rather than needs, let them pay for it. Health care is a need, and it's unconscionable that sick people are being played by sharks and hustlers.

DB: I'm also a complete idiot on this issue. I just figure that there are dozens of countries that provide much better coverage than we do, and they pay less for it. We should learn what they're doing.

Maybe pharmacies and HMOs should be required to have the exact same policy -- whatever that policy is -- toward birth control and Viagra.

SW: Yes, from my limited perspective, single payer seems like the way to go.

Ricardo: You're right. I worked for an insurance company for a long time (mostly workers' comp). Shady; very very shady.

March 20, 2009 at 4:30 PM  

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