Tuesday, April 21, 2020

You Already Concluded The Coronavirus Proves Our Healthcare System Is Totally Broken?– Here Are Two More Stories That Make Ultra-clear Our Private Insurance Company-based Healthcare System Is Wack

The first time I wrote about the Covid-19 virus I wrote:
Covid-19 could not be a more perfect and obvious “my health is your health/your health is my health” argument for Medicare for all.  With massive, nationwide layoffs because of the Covid-19 health crisis, millions of Americans are now losing their “if you like your private employer health plan, you can keep it,” health insurance right at the time when they need it most.
I thought it was pretty obvious that our private insurance company-based healthcare system is broken when I wrote that.  But now there are two more stories that totally torpedo the idea that a private insurance company-based healthcare system makes any sense at all.  The two stories must be treated as related in a sisterly way, but it is not clear that everybody is making the connections that need to be made.

One story is that the coronavirus crisis is actually driving up the profits for Healthcare insurers because, as a result of the health crisis, the demand for nonessential medical treatment that the insurance companies have to pay for has plummeted.  In other words, even as there is a need to channel extra resources in the direction of dealing with the virus, the health insurers get to pocket a windfall because, overall, the entire community of patients is currently getting less to address its health care needs.  Even crazier, at the same time health insurance companies are getting to pocket the windfall from these healthcare crisis vicissitudes, hospitals, extra burdened by Covid, are facing financial failure as they shutdown other activities and patient treatments they depend on for their financial equilibrium.

Here is what Democracy Now reported last Friday, as part of its headlines respecting healthcare insurer profits (probably picking it up from Common Dreams the day before):
The for-profit health insurance giant UnitedHealth Group reported profits grew by over $160 million during the first quarter of 2020, as demand for nonessential medical treatment plummeted while coronavirus hospitalizations surged. UnitedHealth reported a 3.4% year-over-year increase in quarterly earnings to $5 billion. Former health insurance executive Wendell Potter tweeted in response, “The earnings were so good, the company said it still expects to make as much in total profits this year as they predicted in December … when no one could predict the massive loss of life & jobs caused by the coronavirus. In other words, they’re thriving during a pandemic.”
But it gets worse!  Vice News is reporting that Democrats are planning to address the Covid-19 crisis by plowing more money into premiums that will go to the insurance companies.  (See: Democrats’ Big Coronavirus Idea Is to Subsidize Health Insurers- Instead of pushing for public health solutions, Democrats want to cover COBRA premiums.)  In other words, Democrats are going to direct Covid-19 `solution money' to where the problem doesn’t exist and where that money can be intercepted and siphoned off as more insurance company profit windfall.  By definition, insurance is a game of chance, so that premiums paying for insurance are, as a matter of high probability, paid for people who are likely not sick and not needing treatment. .   And these days, as noted, those people are probably trying to minimize the medical treatments they are getting that the insurance companies could be expected to pay for.

Healthcare planing is one of things I studied back in the 70s to get my Masters of Urban Planning degree.  Maybe I didn’t get into it deeply enough at the time, but I certainly don’t remember anything in my studies pointing out that we could have a system this insane.

Certainly it’s clear that our private insurance company-based healthcare system is broken and that the solution is some kind of universal healthcare, something along the lines of Medicare for all as was championed by Bernie Sanders. .   But as a good indication that another system is broken, our political system, I had to point out the last time I wrote about the coronavirus that, all of this notwithstanding, Joe Biden stated very recently that if the Democrats pass Medicare for all he will veto it if he is elected president.

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