Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why Can't Things Just Stay The Same

We voted for change, but once we get to a certain age, we don’t really want things to change. We want the items to be in the same place in the supermarket every time we shop. We tend to take the same route every time we go to a familiar place. We go to bed at the same time, and we wake up at the same time. We repeat the same behavior with the expectation we’ll get the same result.

At least, those of us who are not insane do. They say repeating the same behavior with the expectation of a different outcome is a sign of insanity.

When they move the cheese, whether literally in the supermarket or figuratively in our routines, we become uncomfortable. We just want things to stay the way they are. It takes a lot for us to change routine. We’ll go back to our favorite restaurant even if we have one bad meal there. But two bad meals in a row - we’re outta there! And we don’t go back and try the restaurant again until someone we trust - a friend or family member - says “they took care of the problem”.

Such is the lot with health care reform in 2009, or, as I prefer to say, health insurance reform.

I scanned the TV band yesterday watching reports on news channels of the latest set of town hall protests. My conclusion is that mainly, those who are protesting the proposed changes are those who are happy with their health insurance. They’re insured, they’ve had reasonably good experiences with their insurance carrier, and I have little doubt they’re happy with their treatment.

That’s why I’m with those who call it health INSURANCE reform. We’ve got the best doctors, nurses, health care professionals, and facilities in the world. We’ve got the crappiest health insurance companies on the planet. Those opposed to the so-called “public option” say it would cripple the existing health care insurers, and, you know what? I’m OK with that.

The fools who are worried about rationing under a government program need look no further than their own health insurance company. Do you think any one of them can honestly say they don’t believe their health insurance company rations care? They, or a family member or friend, have NEVER had a procedure or expense denied? Too many people just don’t have the capability of analytical thought. Try and get an insurance company to pay for a gastric banding operation if you’re obese. Cutting-edge medicine is rejected by insurers as “experimental”.

The people the TV news shows seem to represent the least in their coverage are the 48 to 50 million Americans who DON’T have health insurance. They can’t get it for many reasons, not the least of which is they can’t afford it. They have pre-existing conditions which disqualify them. Or it’s connected to a job, and they’re unemployed.

Speaking of that, what about the situation facing a lot of people I know: downsized during the economic downturn, they’re still covered under a COBRA. If you’ve never had the “pleasure” of finding out how this works, once your COBRA days have run their course, you’re about to discover the wonderful world of dealing with a health insurance company on your own.

The people I see in the TV coverage of the loud town hall meetings mainly consist, in my estimation, of people have health insurance and like their plan - resisting change; and the elderly, who are the most vulnerable to the kind of fear-mongering the opposition has ginned up.

We voted for change. The President is right. The absolute worst thing we can do is nothing at all.

1 comment:

  1. Most of those who claim to be happy with their health insurance coverage probably have never really tested the system. They've never had a potentially catastrophic illness or injury. They've never, as you point out, had to battle with insurance bureaucrats over payment for a procedure that fell into the yawning and carefully contrived cracks in the fine print. They've never come up against unrealistically drawn coverage limits, or been left with bankruptcy as the only option after a medical disaster.

    Where is the physician who does not have stories about battling with insurance companies over reimbursements? Former insurance claims people, who are oftentimes rated on their claims-approval rates, have told inside stories of smarmy practices. One described deliberately refusing payment requests three times but paying them on the fourth request. The idea was that most claimants will not file the same bill four times. Another expressed remorse for refusing a procedure that was clearly approvable. The idea was to delay the cost to the next fiscal quarter. The patient died without treatment.

    Rationing? That's what's happening now. Under the system I heard described in a meeting with my congressman today, any public option would leave the decision between patient and physician. If the patient needs an MRI or a surgical procedure, the physician orders it and the patient gets it. No matter if the patient is very young or very old. That's not a decision for bureaucrats to make. What is to fear from that approach?

    For insurance companies, it's nothing but a cold business calculation. Mercy and generosity -- except as an ad hoc way to deal with a case of sereiously bad publicity -- are alien concepts to them.