They call, or we call them, an inexhaustible stream of elderly, disabled, and/or poor Americans, all with their stories to tell. Different in the details of course, but in the aggregate a theme develops, a daily oral history of a shattered medical insurance system, not broken because of governmental incompetence but of an insane ideological commitment to “choice” and “competition” and “the market” even in areas where these ideas do not belong.
And it has been my experience in the private Medicare insurance markets that these ideas, this ideology, is causing massive suffering among our elderly population, a population set most of us will enter during our lives, therefore making this our problem too.
I sell Medicare Advantage plans. I work for a company that does phone sales (largely boosted by the COVID disaster and the work from home movement), and my job is to talk to 30-50 seniors and others who have Medicare and pitch them new plans, every day. Some don’t want to talk, no big deal, more do. And while the debate of the value of call centers and telemarketers is fascinating, please note this isn’t the topic of this thread. I understand a lot of you do not like this and, for this thread, I will concede every one of your complaints with this: Yes, I live in a society in which I wish to eliminate even those parts I benefit from. I am Legion. I contain multitudes. Thank you.
Regardless, our seniors are in pain, they’re dying, and they are being nickel and dimed out of existence, stories like the following, common:
My first husband and I had Tricare, a wonderful insurance policy because he retired from the military and kept all his military benefits. Unfortunately, Sammy died 5 years ago and I remarried – and do you know what? They told me that just because I remarried I had to lose all my Tricare benefits! I was an army wife for 25 years, I served too, in my own way, and yet this gets taken away from me.
Now I’m dealing with copays, co-insurance, doctor networks… I can’t even go to the VA anymore, I had to switch my doctors, and now I’m paying out of pocket hundreds of dollars for my diabetes medications and treatments every month.
Today, I talked to a woman…
John. John. John. I’m so confused. I had an incident, John, they called the ambulance, and I got $700 charged because the ambulance wasn’t in my network. I then went to the dentist for a deep cleaning, you know? And I got a $1,200 bill for it… no, it’s OK, I financed it so I’ll have it paid off in a few months, but I look at my plan and apparently it only pays for basic dental and not comprehensive? Can you tell me what this means?
And what are my solutions? To look at a patchwork of plan options, dependent by county, looking for marginal improvements in the plan… “well, this plan has your diabetes medications at $9 instead of $47”, “this plan has $2,000 in dental benefits compared to your plan”, and it’s just fucking insane because, at the core, all these plans are the same, they’re different only by degrees. And they’re only marginally different because the ideological commitment to capitalism applied to government-mandated insurance minimum-coverage requirements forces companies to come up with various gimmicks like “free transportation” or “Part B buybacks” or “healthy food cards”, all of it to convince people, some barely subsisting on social security, to use Humana instead of United HealthCare.
Ladies and gentlemen, given this forum, this thread will have some basic premises which are not being debated:
- That insurance, fundamentally, is a socialist enterprise… the pooling of individual funds into a common account to allay the financial impact of risk on the individual members of the group.
- That the bigger the insurance pool, the sounder it is financially. (In America, you can see this in workplace health insurance – go work for Flush Big Corp and you get very nice plans, go work for Struggling Small Business and your plans are usually for shit.
- That principles of competition usually work fine for insurance enterprises which are not universally required or desired – auto insurance is an obvious example, homeowners, even life insurance.
- That principles of competition do not work for insurance enterprises which are universally required or desired, the most obvious example being health insurance.
That is why this is here, in MPSIMS, because I want to relay the stories of destruction wrought by one segment of the American health insurance* industry, not debate that it is a thing or why it’s a thing or how we can fix it or whatever. There is a major crisis, no debate about it – I talk to the consumers daily and I hear their frustration, their pain. This is my Rush Limbaugh of threads – I am starting from the above statements as axioms and will provide stories which buttress this viewpoint. If you want to argue the above, that’s awesome - please, start a different thread and I may join. Or not.
- And I do mean insurance, which is what many are referring to when they talk about “socialized medicine”. It is not the doctors or the medicine which is failing America, financing our doctors and medicines via individual private companies is what is failing America.