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March 30, 2006

Man's Search For Meaning

And this is why private care is so efficient:

The plaintiffs, represented by Claremont attorney William M. Shernoff, are former Blue Cross members who allege the company reneged on its obligation to pay their medical expenses and dropped them from their plans after authorizing treatment for serious conditions, including breast cancer and heart disease.

The suits accuse Blue Cross of operating a "retroactive review department" that, in an effort to boost profit, systematically cancels policies that result in large claims.

The patients say they were suddenly left with hospital bills, some exceeding $100,000. Some say they've been unable to afford needed follow-up care because their coverage was dropped.

They allege that Blue Cross scours years of medical records after expensive claims have been submitted, looking for innocent misstatements and omissions to use as pretext to rescind coverage and escape expensive bills.

The suits also accuse Blue Cross of using a vague, confusing and ambiguous medical history questionnaire in an effort to trick applicants into making mistakes that the company can use later to dump them.

In the coming issue of The New Republic, I have a review of Charles Murray's new book: In Our Hands. It's a doozy of a document -- the crypto-eugenicist last noticed for the Bell Curve fame demanding that we liquidate the American welfare state, plow the savings into $10,000 checks, and conduct all our health care bargaining individually with private insurers. He doesn't believe this simply because it'll save American health care (though, according to him, it will), but because it will imbue our lives with a depth, texture, and meaning that reliance on government bureaucrats has robbed us of. And I'm sure the plaintiffs of the above lawsuit would agree.

March 30, 2006 | Permalink

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Comments

Actually, my husband and I (we both work in health care) have been hoping for some time that this will happen, most likely by employers getting fed up and deciding to get out of providing health insurance. Once large numbers of Americans are thrown onto the tender mercies of the individual market, which will refuse to insure the ones who really need it, and/or charge confiscatory rates, then we'll be able to break the political impasse and start moving to single-payer.

Posted by: Rebecca Allen,PhD,ARNP | Mar 30, 2006 12:58:25 PM

If you're the poor schmuck who comes down with a serious illness during that transition period and can't get treatment for it, it's not such a great idea.

Not to mention that a wholesale evaporation of people with health coverage would likely result in a lot of health care workers getting thrown out of work because nobody is getting treatment for anything.

Posted by: fiat lux | Mar 30, 2006 1:24:53 PM

I am constanly amazed at how people who fear government bureaucrats are so willing to trust their lives to corporate bureaucrats.

Posted by: Tito | Mar 30, 2006 1:53:40 PM

"conduct all our health care bargaining individually with private insurers."

Hee, hee. Haggling individually with private insurers will be so much fun...especially if they follow the discriminatory track record of auto finance cos, car dealerships, mortgage companies.

Posted by: CParis | Mar 30, 2006 2:08:28 PM

Remember how proud Andrew Sullivan was when TNR, under his editorship, had the big serious symposium on The Bell Curve? Let's hope Murray keeps getting crazier, further embarrassing those who allowed themselves to be duped into taking him seriously in the past.

Posted by: djw | Mar 30, 2006 5:06:45 PM

...we both work in health care...

Well. I can certainly see why you want a single-payer government system and I can also understand why you don't try to get to the root of the problem and that is the actual cost of healthcare.
As for the others that whose incomes are not linked to healthcare, why aren't they looking at what measures can be taken to control costs, instead of simply blindly accepting any costs given to them by the industry and then screaming for others to pay for it??

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 30, 2006 5:28:51 PM

I used to work for Blue Cross of California - and always felt the sleazier for it. I think Matthew Holt has its number pretty well with Wellpoint's ruthless focus on underwriting/cherry picking in arguably predatory territory. This doesn't surprise me at all and I hope that if this is truly a pattern that there will be some consequences. The individual health insurance market is a bitch - from all sides, can we say antiselection?

Posted by: RebeccaS | Mar 30, 2006 9:50:43 PM

Good to see the TNR assigning you the book!

Murray's argument reminds me of David Frum and Lucky Bill Bennett romantcizing the Donner Party...

Posted by: Scott Lemieux | Mar 31, 2006 12:47:18 AM

"I can also understand why you don't try to get to the root of the problem and that is the actual cost of healthcare."

Every other country in the world has gotten a handle on that problem. How did they do it Fred?

Posted by: SteveH | Mar 31, 2006 1:11:02 PM

Well,not being a Europe Worshiper, I don't look outside to the Socialist side of the pond.

What I recommend is to make physician schools plentiful. the AMA makes this difficult currently.

Supply and demand, not just a good idea....it's the LAW!

Posted by: Fred Jones | Mar 31, 2006 3:01:03 PM

I'm not sure if anyone else is aware of this, but retroactive revocation of insurance coverage is a fairly common practice in the realm of homeowner's insurance, as is the practice of hiking rates to a prohibitive point. At least, that's the case in Jersey.

Posted by: neil | Mar 31, 2006 3:12:02 PM

What I recommend is to make physician schools plentiful. the AMA makes this difficult currently. Supply and demand, not just a good idea....it's the LAW!

Right, because with the educational system what it is in this country today, what better time to make it easier to get a medical degree?


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