Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It’s really hard to defend health insurance companies, isn’t it?

EvilBlueAnn

Like a lot of other Americans, I absolutely hate the idea of the federal government wandering in and taking over the nation’s health care system.

But I’ll be damned if the insurance companies don’t make us understand just why some people are claiming the health care system is broken and is in need of radical repair. Here’s the problem – health care insurance companies are simply brimming with some of the most impersonal and money-grubbing decision makers to be found anywhere. Indeed, it’s hard as hell to cozy up to them and argue – with a straight face – that they’re out to do little more than collect premiums and deny as many claims as possible.

It’s rather like being bullied by a mean, fat kid in school. Everyone hates the mean, fat kid who pushes people down, takes their lunch money and generally makes their lives hell. If a fatter, meaner kid shows up and promises to beat up the bully, then it’s no surprise that the newcomer has his share of fans.

Of course, it could be that the fatter, meaner kid will simply depose his rival and make everyone more miserable than they already are, but the hope is there that things will somehow improve. People might be better off with the original bully, but who the hell wants to rush and defend him?

Those of us who oppose the health care reform being shoved through Washington right now face the same dilemma. Sure, we can argue all day long about the erosion of freedoms, the questionable constitutionality of having the government force everyone to have some kind of insurance, etc.

But we’re really just defending a despicable bully. Yes, we may be better off letting that fat bastard continue to bilk the American population instead of letting the feds hang us out to dry, but that’s not the kind of argument that resonates with people, is it?

It’s hard not to understand why a lot of folks hate the health insurance industry as it is today. Let me tell you folks a story.

Last year I had the greatest health insurance plan on the planet. We’re talking about something that covered everything with no co-pays. A fairly high deductible was part of that package, but my company paid the deductible, meaning I had one hell of a benefit. Health care insurance that treats everything and costs absolutely nothing is more than appealing to a cat like me who has ulcerative colitis and spends a ton of cash on medication every month.

Ah, but that former plan is expensive. With businesses cutting back everywhere, the office started looking for less expensive alternatives to the plan we had.

Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield slimed its way into our office one day and promised to offer the same plan for a lot less money. Yes, it would be great! We were assured that all would be well with the company’s wonderful plan – we’d save money and everything would be covered just as it had always been.

I’ve got two prescriptions that I’m supposed to take until (I suppose) I drop dead or they jerk my colon out due to cancer or something equally vile. I refilled them and went to pick them up tonight. My pharmacist told me that Blue Cross – the company that promised us the moon, of course – had denied one of my medications and recommended some over-the-counter garbage. I'm actually surprised the wise folks at Blue Cross didn't suggest buying a bottle of Tums and hoping for the best.

There are two things fascinating about all of that. First of all, it appears that the Blue Cross rep who sold us her particular bill of goods was lying through her teeth. She was told what my medications were when we signed up (I’ve saved an email through which her company asked about some particular information about those drugs) and I was told all would be well under the wonderful Blue Cross plan. Unless things have changed dramatically since I quit practicing law 10 years ago, one can make the argument that she bound her company to the promise she made to me. I’ll take that up with her (very loudly, I imagine) in the morning.

Second, we’ve heard a lot about how one of the problems with the government running the health care industry is that the days in which medical decisions are between patients and their doctors will come to an end. When an insurance company interferes with that process the way they’re trying to do in my case, couldn’t we argue that those days are already dead and gone?

For folks wondering about the illustration at the top of this post, that’s BlueAnn Ewe – the cute and cuddly mascot of Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield. BlueAnn Ewe. Like “Blue and you.” Get it? Yes, Arkansas Blue Cross has presented itself as our partner in good health by dreaming up a cutesy sheep.

Beware of companies that hide behind cute mascots. They tend to have a lot to hide.

At any rate, defending jackals like Blue Cross and Blue Shield is hard to do. Whether we wind up with the same rotten system we’ve got or some federal-run monstrosity, I figure most of us folks who work for a living are still going to take a beating. We’re ultimately just arguing over whether to substitute one misery causing bully with another – an uncomfortable situation that should be painfully familiar to anyone with presidential elections since 1988.

9 comments:

FishHawk said...

It is a common tale of, "We will do as we like until someone stops us," when it comes to dealing with most insurance companies. Making things even worse is that even if the insurance part of the equation was right, the quality of health care in this country is poor at best for those who cannot afford to pay extra. Go ask Crotchety about that.

The Natural State Hawg said...

FishHawk -- I do believe you're right. The problem that a lot of us have is that we hate the notion of the government wading into the middle of the health care arena (more than it has already waded, of course), but what we currently have stinks.

Reform is necessary, it seems, but I'm not sure the mess floating through Washington right now will do much but make a bad situation worse.

FishHawk said...

My thoughts exactly, my dear Ethan. For what is currently being proposed is the spending of an incredible amount of money to accomplish not nearly as much good as the proponents of this measure is promising. In fact, in far too many cases, more harm than good will come to be.

Steve said...

There is actually quite a difference between Government Health Care and your current situation. At it's most basic level, you have someone to go to in protest, and I wish you the best in that process. But were it the Feds, with whom is your recourse?

In the more complicated level, you always have the opportunity to switch back to the other provider on your own dime. Furthermore, insurance companies cannot fine you for not using their services.

It's a complicated system all the way around. But in every instance, the private system beats the hell out of the Government.

I used to date a psychologist who had worked briefly as a social worker. She quit because she couldn't take it anymore. She said everyone hated to see her coming, even though she was there to help. I'm sure it is much the same for insurance companies. Despite all they have done for so many people, everyone still hates to see them coming.

The Natural State Hawg said...

Steve -- Hey, I agree with you there. I absolutely hate to deal with insurance companies, but I know for a fact dealing with the feds would be worse.

It seems like we've got a problem with the health care industry and the government -- as usual -- is primed and ready to blunder in and make things worse.

Want some real reform? How about the things we on the right have wanted for years (tort reform, competition across state lines?) How about the novel idea of putting some legislation in place that will let doctors provide substantial discounts to people coming in an paying at the time of service (if the docs want to put in that discount, that is?)

Instead of even considering a market-based solution, we get what's shaping up to be pretty much what we have now only infinitely worse. How in the hell does that make sense to anyone?

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The Natural State Hawg said...

Satya -- Thanks! I've subscribed to your blog, too (by email).

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