health insurance is for the healthy

For me, the debate about government supplied universal health care begins and ends with this: health insurance companies may be very efficient businesses. The problem is, what they are efficient at is not providing health care to those who need it. Their business model depends on taking as much of our money as possible while paying as few of our medical expenses as they can. Hence we get some horrible, soulless person working as a “senior cancellation specialist”:

Patsy Bates is a self-employed hairdresser who was in the middle of cancer treatment when Health Net, one of California’s biggest health care companies, canceled her coverage.

Bates told ABC News, “I have two chemotherapy sessions, then we find out the surgeon hasn’t been paid. The anaesthesiologist hasn’t been paid, and the cancer doctor has not been paid.”

With $200,000 in medical bills, she sued for $6 million. Her lawsuit revealed that Health Net actually set goals for its employees to cancel policies, and the carrier paid more than $20,000 in bonuses to its senior cancellation specialist.

Court documents show that over six years Health Net canceled 1,600 policies, avoiding at least $35.5 million in medical expenses. In 2002, the goal was set at 180 cancellations and was exceeded by its cancellation specialist, who dropped 275 policies that year.

Capitalism is the greatest system in the world for creating economic wealth and consumer goods. It is absolutely wonderful for providing all the flat screen tvs we could ever need. What the avid free-marketeers seem blinded to is that when its economic imperatives work against the public good, capitalistic efficiency becomes a curse, not a blessing. Regulating these excesses and taking over where markets fail is what government is for.

On the other hand, I’m sure the “senior cancellation specialist” can afford a very nice car.

Photo by Library of Congress via pingnews.

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