Thursday, August 20, 2009

If you can spend 6 minutes...

putting health insurance companies in perspective, watch this video. It comes from Sick for Profit, a project by Robert Greenwald's Brave New Films. This video exposes the bare bones of the health care debate: We can either pay for more medical coverage for more people, or we can pay for mansions and yachts for insurance company executives. It's a question of social priorities. We can have a health system that guarantees quality care for everyone, or we can have a health system that guarantees a few people will grow very wealthy denying quality care to many.


Sara said...

I wonder what the 'screamers' think about this info, or do they not know or just bury their heads in the sand about it?

I have a question. Being an insurance agent and automatically looking at insurance from the perspective of spreading risk, how could a plan be built that would be able to function,for a lack of a better word,'fairly' for the healthiest. i.e. efficiently absorb the costs of the sickest? I'm not saying, in order to turn a profit, just to function. How is it funded, I guess is what I'm asking. And I don't mean 'fairly' per se. I guess I mean, how do you underwrite it? I disagree with the whole pre-existing condition loophole they use, but shouldn't they still collect all your health info for actuarial info? That's just necessary book-keeping for an insurance company right?

How does that work?

Elizabeth said...

This literally makes me sick.

Why is it that people will rage against the bonuses and salaries of Wall Street (understandable) and yet, as Sara points out, no one seems to know, or at least talk about, the immoral profits in health insurance?

If we really believe the Declaration of Independence and that everyone has a right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," a chance at a healthy life should be one of the first things we defend. When we no longer defend the lives of our citizens, we are a nation that is sealing our own destiny of destruction. And we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Wow, I really did just say that.

Dave said...

Sara, I think the fairest health system for the healthiest and the sickest would spread the 'risk' as widely as possible--in a nationwide "single-payer" system that is not for profit and is under democratic control. That way, the costs of the sickest people are absorbed by the entire system, which also includes all the healthiest people. There are lots of ways you could structure the funding. You could have premiums, co-pays, deductibles, etc. that are based on income level. Or you could do away with all those costs and have everything paid directly by the U.S. Treasury. That way, a progressive tax system that spreads the health costs fairly over the whole population would be a substitute for premiums that are based on income. And in this system, "pre-existing conditions" would be pretty much meaningless because they wouldn't affect your service or your costs and no one could be excluded from the system. The point is there are lots of ways you can structure "single-payer," as shown by Canada, France, Australia, Great Britain, etc., all of which have longer life expectancies and healthier people than the U.S.

Another cool thing about single-payer is that it would spread out the benefits as well as the costs. We could, as a nation, really focus on promoting healthy lifestyles (health education, good nutrition, exercise), and that would reduce the cost of the entire system.

I think America must eventually go in this direction on health care. We've got to get out of the mindset that health insurance can or should be a for-profit industry. It's not that "profit" is some evil word. But trying to make health insurance into a market incentivizes companies to do four bad things:

1) jack up the premiums as much as possible for healthy people
2) deny coverage as much as possible for sick people
3) avoid people they know will be expensive (i.e. those with pre-existing conditions)
4) monopolize local and national insurance markets so consumers can't escape 1, 2, and 3.

We're always going to be fighting those four things as long as health insurance is seen as an industry instead of a right or a public service. And I say health insurance, because of all forms of insurance I think we'd all agree that health is unique, because it's foundational to everything else we do.

Does that make any sense? I didn't know you were an insurance agent. Maybe you could explain this stuff better than I can.

Sara said...

Thanks, Dave! Makes sense to me. I agree, there just isn't really a way to avoid corruption and waste in a for-profit set up. Not that I can see anyway.
I've been trying to read up on how other countries have been doing it.
Seems to me that the arguments against the quality of care going down are mute. For one thing, I think that argument is crazily overblown, but for another thing, something is always going to be better than nothing.
And what you said about being able to turn more focus on healthy lifestyles (once it doesn't profit somebody to let people be unhealthy) sounds awesome. That's something I'd love to see.
Good bloggin' as usual!