POLICY/HEALTH PLANS: Clowns to the left of us, jokers to the right…..

Yet another study showing that even if you’re insured, because of the structure of our insurance system even the insured have trouble paying bills.  Now I know I should leave this well alone. It’s ground that I’ve trampled to death before, such as this story about the insured parents of the sick kid who’ve declared bankruptcy. But when the magic four letter acronym of certain industry trade group pops up (even without a certain lobbyist’s name mentioned) I just can’t help myself.

Along with deductibles and co-payments, The Access Project found other factors associated with medical debt were annual or lifetime "caps" on benefits; extra charges for "out of network" care, even when admitted to in-network hospitals; and complex billing systems by insurers and hospitals that left patients confused about what they owed.

Mohit Ghose, spokesman for the industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, says the study unfairly blames insurers for rising costs. He says there are many reasons spending on health is going up, including new treatments and drugs, rising demand as the population ages and "defensive medicine" by providers worried that they will be sued if they don’t run every test or offer every alternative to patients. "For too long, people have found it convenient to put any and all problems with the health sector at the doorstep of health insurance plans," says Ghose.

Not actually a direct lie this time, you’ll note. But excuse me again, but if it’s not to sort out that stuff—the over use, the defensive medicine, assess the correct use of technology—then what do AHIPs members do for their customers other than slap on 20% and send them the bill? Not much is the answer.

But I guess AHIP is doing its job. They’ve been getting idiot libertarians from no-name universities to write ridiculous op-eds about the value private insurers bring to the system and than has succeeded in getting them placed in that bastion of Marxism The New York freaking Times!! I’ll spare you the whole thing (although this post at Economist’s View  explains largely what a pile of crock Cowen writes. But this choice piece of outright idiocy has to make an appearance at THCB:

It is precisely because competing insurance companies spend money evaluating the appropriateness of claims that they are willing to pay for so many heart bypasses, extra tests, private hospital rooms and CT scans.

Given what Ghose says in the line above about how insurers aren’t able to do that stuff because it’s just too hard for them, someone at AHIP has clearly not been communicating well with their pet blogger, or at least Cowen has no idea what a health insurer does. Perhaps he should try to get a job at HBS? He’d fit in well there

And given that Cowen is an out-there libertarian nut with no basic chops in health care, and for whom this is his second recent appearance in the Times, it’s worth asking how many op-eds has the Times featured from Alain Enthoven, Vic Fuchs, or anyone else with half a brain on the topic this year? You know my guess as to the answer.

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7 replies »

  1. Don’t worry high deductible plans with CDHP will save the day, at least that’s what the anti-single pay group says. The push for single pay may increase when more insured find out they too are threatened with bankruptcy. Not fixing the current direction of 20% of GDP for healthcare will fold many more insured into the bankruptcy downfall.

  2. Actually, the peer reviewed studies about Canada et al are even handedly treated by a source I trust over Mr Krugman here (among many other places on THCB). If he bothers to peruse that document he’ll find an analysis of a series of roughly half a dozen peer-reviewed studies with real data comparing Canada and the US. Which exceeds the number of peer-reviewed studies he’s probably ever read let alone put on his own blog or in his comments by (my guess) roughly half a dozen.
    And as for the “ad hominen attacks” — I don’t believe I’ve ever called Mr Browning a thug, as he’s called me. But that’s OK. Mr Browning can keep calling me what he likes. But perhaps it’s about time he tells us how much he’s being paid by the underwriters he speaks to to peddle his nonsense. Or is he really foolish enough to be wasting the fortune he made off his once prosperous dotcom on this rubbish?
    Sadly I’ve never made enough to be able to spend it peddling the same type of tripe, so I must return to my labors. And the fun of poking Mr. Browning will end for a good long time.

  3. Be assured gentlemen that I also greatly enjoy your non-sensical banter. From the Karl Rove altar references (???) to Mr. Holt’s never-varying non-arguments and ad hominem attacks. I offered no opinion on insurance company cost control – only that government cost controls are borne by the patient – and thus hidden.
    However, what’s really rich is Mr. Holt’s reference to the Economist’s View blog which is merely a regurgitation of Paul Krugman editorials filled with lies about life expectancy averages and infant mortality rates. Of course, Krugman’s lies aren’t backup by peer-reviewed studies, but they’re good enough for Mr. Holt.

  4. I’m beginning to love Mr Browning for his pure entertainment value, so I’ll break my traditional ignoring of him as this one is so special
    It’s not enough that he doesn’t ever have any peer-reviewed studies in his work, as they all prove him wrong (as they do all of Cowen’s arguments too, even though I can’t be bothered to Risk his piece line by line). But this one is really special.
    Mr Browning doesn’t notice that in the very piece he’s criticizing me for not taking on Cowen’s argument, I show that the very same argument Cowen makes about the value of private health plans to the system (that they do all this great work controlling and evaluating what happens in the system) is directly contradicted by the research head of the trade association of private health plans who says that they have no control over any of it.
    The man is a genius, obviously. But it’s taken me a while to realize that he’s a comedic genius.

  5. And, of course, Stuart, like all “out-there-non-leftist-nuts,” you respond with…
    …An ad-hominem attack. Brilliant!
    And, Mr. Browning, I guess you haven’t been sick and poor in this country. I assure you that, on aggregate, the waits and pain are far worse here than elsewhere, and at far greater cost, as, in America, markets incentivize care denial rather than delivery, and the poor are assumed to be lazy and stupid and not deserving of any pity.
    Begone, sir. Worship again at the alter of Rove and await further instructions.

  6. Notice that Mr. Holt doesn’t touch one of the primary points that Mr. Cowen makes: that government-run health care systems shift costs to patients in the form of long waits and pain. This “out there leftist nut” is too busy hurling ad hominems insults to truly take on the arguments presented.

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