Thursday, February 14, 2008

Haunting Echoes of 'Health' Insurance

Way back in June of 2006, I had done a post ("Money or Medicine" - click the title link) on the shenanigans of health insurers and particularly a group called United Health (at that time hiding behind a quiet buyout of Oxford) who had earned a rather rich write-up in the NY Times. I was therefore less than surprised to see this heading at NPR today on my Google Homepage: "N.Y. Attorney General Accuses Insurers of Fraud".

Part of the answer must be that it's a bit like life insurance - you don't really know much about what you've actually got for your investment till it is (far) too late to make any changes. Folks that get really sick and then get shafted are already in such bad shape both financially and personally that their feeble voices are well below our threshold.

We will insist on believing the slick sales talk, and continue to be awed by the shiny brochures and the oh-so-well-designed websites that we forget that all that cosmetic costs real money and its coming out of the premium that so quietly gets deducted from your paycheck every month. Effective cosmetic cover is only really needed when there is no intrinsic beauty to reveal. Individual horror stories are a dime a dozen, but few seem to be aware that their fates are a result of careful planning and cleverly hidden execution. The return on investment for the shareholders is the permanent goal. Shafting and systematically cheating a few thousand here or there is the acceptable collateral damage along the path to that ROI.

Granted that the present U.S. government is more concerned about protecting the turf of such big businesses than overly worried about the healthcare that the general populace does or does not get. Still, I wonder how such corporations can continue to convince people to pay the dues that keep them raking in the money even when their primary aim is to take folks for a cheap but royal sounding ride?

We are so proud to be among 'the protected' and we will continue to be proud until it's too late and we are too far gone to be able to do anything about it but cry.

Thanks to Peter Kuper for the wonderfully apt illustration.

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