Health Insurance Obfuscation In Massachusetts

Today’s op-ed page in the Globe carries a piece by a Gene Lindsey, identified as president and CEO of Atrius Health, which is some sort of consortium of a handful of medical groups.

Mr. Lindsey is pimping the latest proposal by the Massachusetts government to rescue itself from its ill-advised health insurance welfare program. That’s welfare for the insurance companies, not welfare for the sick and the disabled. Massachusetts mandated, under law, that everybody had to give their money to the health insurance companies. In return the insurance companies are allowed to provide perfectly crappy health insurance policies.

Health care, in the meantime, and that means mean time, goes begging.

Mr. Lindsey says the State should now adopt a program of global payments, meaning that some insurance bureaucrat, colluding with some government bureaucrat, will tell your doctor he can have only so many dollars to take care of you each year.

It used to be called capitation, and it was lousy when it existed throughout the industry. It wasn’t so bad for the insurance companies, of course, but for the patients it pretty much amounted to decapitation.

One of Canada’s provinces uses a similar program, and it’s apparently not working out so well. Medical costs keep rising and the province can’t keep up.

The global payment program being proposed will be, apparently, the next step in what promises to be a long line of futile next steps as the insurance industry and the politicians squirm and twist and wriggle in their attempt to avoid the obvious, and that is that the insurance industry has to be taken out of the equation. People do not want insurance; people want health care. The insurance industry does not provide health care. It’s business model is based on denying health care to its customers.

The insurers are happy to take your money and to promise you the best health care in the world, but when it comes to paying for your care, well, that requires major surgery on your part to cut the money away from the insurer in order to pay the doctor. Insurance companies kill people. Insurance companies insure that people get sick. Insurance companies don’t want you to visit your doctor, they don’t want you to get surgery, they don’t want you to get the drugs you need to save your life. Every time you need care the insurance company loses money.

America has one of the least healthy societies among modern industrialized nations. America has one of the highest infant mortality rates. Americans live shorter lives. And that is because the country has one of the worst health care delivery systems in the world. It only works for people with money, lots of money, people who can afford to spend fifteen to twenty thousand dollars, or more, a year to take care of a family of four. And even then they have to fight with insurance company drones and contend with increasing co-payments, and still worry about going bankrupt.

The poor and the disabled are better off. Medicare and Medicaid, single payer systems, take care of them with minimal hassle. But everybody else? Screwed by the insurance companies and their bought-and-paid-for politicians in the Congress and in state legislatures around the country. Screwed too by their own ignorance and unthinking beliefs.

Just yesterday a woman caller on one of the news channels, CNN, if The Lion recalls correctly, proclaimed that healthcare is a privilege, not a right.

Not being the most charitable of beings, The Lion hopes that she loses her home and life savings to the tender mercies of the medical and insurance industries and will have the privilege of having to beg for some drug that might save her life. She’s the enemy in an insane war.

Perhaps she could start her career in beggary by standing in the rain and pounding on the door of one of Mr. Lindsey’s offices. Perhaps the great man himself will come out and discuss with her the benefits of global payments and the fine points of the insurance industry’s policies that guarantee them obscene profits gained from the suffering and misery of sick people. They could have a fruitful conversation, him on the porch, her in the rain, and then she could return, happy in having her view of privilege confirmed, to her cardboard box perched on or near a heating grate on a nameless sidewalk somewhere. Mr. Lindsey will no doubt drive home in his no doubt expensive car to his no doubt expensive house where he will continue his life of privilege. No doubt.

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4 Responses

  1. All rights are privileges. We’ve decided that everyone has a right to free speech, but there’s no right of free speech beyond our saying there is and making it part of our constitution. Healthcare is no different.

    Sibellius was on the Daily Show the other night. Pretty dry segment, but during the discussion an interesting contradiction came up. The conservatives always argue that government can’t do anything right, therefore if they’re in charge of healthcare, we’ll be screwed. However, they’re also arguing that it’ll destroy the health insurance market because no company could possibly compete with the federal government. Well how could both be true? Either they’d fuck it up, making private solutions much more appealing, or they’d do it better, discouraging seeking private solutions.

    From what I understand, the federal plan will be only for those who can’t afford private solutions. Yes, it’ll mean we all, through taxes, will be paying part of the cost to make sure they get healthcare, as we do for seniors now. It’s absurd to think they should simply rely on the charity of others rather than a government safety net, especially when these same people are so reluctant to part with a few sheckles to support a safety net. Once again, one argument contradicts another.


    • This twit wasn’t using privilege in the same sense you are. She was using it in the sense of if you can’t pay for it yourself, too bad, go die on the sidewalk.

      What Sibellius was saying has shown up a lot lately, at least over on MSNBC’s progressive hours (Schulz, Olbermann, Maddow). As usual, the Republicans are putting forth the argumentum-from-I-got-mineum-screw-youum.


  2. I live in Massachusetts and work for the state of Connecticut. I have insurance through my employer, which is pretty comprehensive. I’ve been fortunate enough not to have to use my insurance. But, I’m mostly fortunate that I don’t have to buy insurance through the Connector that includes benefits I will never use t I still have to pay for to the tune of more than $300every month–or be fined heavily. But, what if I want to quit my job and open my own business or work for another employer or employers who don’t offer insurance? And what if I want to go without insurance and simply accept the responsibility of doing so? Massachusetts has made it even HARDER for people to quit their jobs and strike out on their own. I’m more trapped in my job than I have ever been because I am afraid I will have to pay hundreds of dollars a month if I work for myself or in a job that doesn’t provide insurance or pay enough for me to afford insurance premiums the state deems “affordable.” Is the intention of the law to keep people working in jobs they may hate because they are afraid of fines and penalties levied by the state?


    • Some goodly percentage of people continued working in jobs they hated, or hate, irregardless of the law, because they needed or wanted the health insurance and couldn’t take a chance on losing it by moving to another job. The Massachusetts law just codified the insanity. Mandating the purchase of health insurance by individuals is simply a way of telling the insurance companies that they can now rip people off legally and the state will back them up.


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