HEALTH PLANS: Who said this….?

In one of the many newsletters I diligently peruse so that you don’t have to be contaminated directly I read this. Astonishing, even considering the source.

I had a terrific opportunity to speak to 700 health insurance agents and brokers on Tuesday morning, here for the Capitol Conference of the National Association of Health Underwriters, most ably led by CEO Janet Trautwein. These people are entrepreneurs who are on the front lines of saving the private market for health insurance in this country, and they are my heroes.

So who is it who thinks that this country’s health care heroes are the insurance brokers and underwriters who are in fact just waste motion making money off our dysfunctional insurance system? Answers/guesses in the comments please…..

CODA: I was actually speaking at a PRI event last year and met an insurance broker who explained to me that he was giving wonderful service to his clients. I with a hint of cynicism asked him what he meant and he said that he was helping them navigate the health care system, finding them the right doctors and negotiating with hospitals for them. I pointed out that those were the functions of a health advocate not a traditional insurance broker. He agreed. Hmmm…I said so you want to move your business from commission based insurance sales to fee-based consumer advocacy, and he told me that he had even been discussing this with Sheila Kheul (the main proponent of single payer in California) as a potential role for brokers in a single payer world.  How many health advocates like you do you think we need in California, I said. About 2-3,00 he said. How many health insurance brokers and underwriters are there in California I asked. About 50,000 he said.

That leads to me thinking that this bunch isn’t going quietly into the night….but then again they’re "heroes"

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Matthew HoltKen HoughtonJay NorrisKevinAnn Malone, RN Recent comment authors
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Matthew Holt

Indeed it was Grace-Marie Turner herself. She does indeed continue to make me wonder…

Jay Norris

Nope, I’m sorry Ken. Your worst fears have been realized. My diligent research also returned Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute. I can’t believe it!!!!! This is just absolutely crazy!!!! What next? I’ve never heard of the Galen Institute, but it looks as if they pride themselves on their support for the free market health care system. I’m shocked that you were able to dig up an over inflated compliment their president made to people working in the free market health care system. Are you really sure it was her that said it? This is HUGE!!

Jay Norris

Who wrote this post? Am I missing that somewhere? If you’ve read any of our blog, you’ll see that we are very strong single payer advocates. It’s just a better system. As for the current system, what we do as brokers is help the client understand the difference between all of their policy options, what is covered, how it is covered, etc. We help them understand all of the risks associated with each plan and each company. The complicated part is the underwriting. All of the companies have different underwriting standards. So a person with a certain condition might get… Read more »

Ken Houghton

My diligent internet search (three minutes with The Google) indicates that the likely voice is Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute.
Please tell me I’m wrong.

Jay Norris

Okay, enough suspense, who was it? A politician I hope? For the sake of the post, I hope it was somebody unexpected, like Hillary Clinton or Ed Schultz. If it was just some CEO of a health insurance company, republican legislator, or health insurance industry think tank pandering to the industry – what a let down this post will be…..


Actually, if the insurance agent understands his job, it begins when the client goes to the doctor. If the agent understands how the modern market works, his rep will be all over the blogosphere. Help the client get the claims paid, help back to normal, and he’ll have all the business he needs. So here’s a thought: Have the agent who sold the plan be responsible for the bills getting paid. Maybe incent him with a chunk of the cost savings, or reward him on renewals. (I’d also like to see advanced commissions abolished, so that you actually have to… Read more »

Ann Malone, RN

Your newsletter quote from the NAHU conference is incredible. And revealing. I take it as good news as it reveals that the profit-driven medical industrial complex folks are on the defensive. Thank heavens we’ve got our own group of “Health Care Heroes” here in Massachusetts (the real kind, not to be confused with “Health Insurance Heroes” impostors). Something tells me that the ranks of this “HC Heroes” group is about to swell magnificently and that it might even include many who are urgently needed but sadly have been led astray, tempted by the endless flow of insurance company “foundation” money… Read more »

Steve Beller, PhD

The quote above about the “heroes” reminds me of a recent conversation I had on another blog with health insurance brokers about the cost of insurance. I made the point that one group struggling under the burden of high health insurance costs are people purchasing policies on their own, i.e., they do not work for an employer who offers them coverage. I mentioned a January 08 Consumer Reports investigative report “On Their Own: Far from a remedy, insurance for individuals is a world of pain.” The responses I received gave insight into the minds of health insurers, specifically, how they… Read more »