Sunday, February 14, 2010

When Gravity is Bad

The big news for health care reformers is that Anthem Blue Cross is raising premiums for people who buy policies individually, proving that health insurance companies are evil, heartless and greedy to the extreme.

Look, I’m not defending health insurance companies, per se, but the whole discussion is insane, and so is the system itself.

First, arguing for reform, you decry the number of people who are dying because they don’t have insurance; thereby presenting health insurance as a life-saving institution. Then you go on major rants about health insurance denying treatment; even calling them “the real death panels.” So your idea of reform seems to be to enroll more people in death panels; sign them up to pay money for something that will not provide them with health care.

As to the issue of the Anthem Blue Cross premium increase. Do you really believe that they did this with the expectation of making huge profit and a mere desire to make their profits even more huge?

People have been losing jobs at a rate of 400,000 per month and, as a result, been losing health insurance. The result is that insurance companies are dealing with a smaller “risk pool” of insured persons, and that means that each person in that risk pool must contribute a higher amount to that pool to keep it solvent. Anthem Blue Cross did not willingly decrease the size of its risk pool, did not create the risk pool principle, and is as helpless in the face of that principle as are the people who are in the risk pool and paying the premiums.

As a result of greater numbers of uninsured, hospitals are having to deal with more people who do not pay for their medical treatment. They pass that cost on to people who do pay for treatment, and the actual payer of that treatment is health insurance companies. So when the cost of a hospital visit goes from $800 to $1050, where is Anthem Blue Cross supposed to get that additional $250 from? There is only one place it can get it from: increased premiums.

Current reform arguments are like being overweight and cursing gravity.

The problem isn't the players within the model, it's the model itself. If you want to retain the present “for profit health insurance” model of health care distribution, then you have to accept the nature of the way that model works. If you don’t want to live with the way that model works, then change the model. There are many models to choose from, all of which work better than this one. Single payer is one, and has been rejected, but there are others that also work very well.

But stop with this nonsense of being overweight and blaming physics.

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