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Commentary :: Social Welfare
Checking the Ingredients of Private Health Insurance
04 Sep 2006
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A potentially sickening, if not fatal, flaw in the Mass Health Plan is that private insurers are still involved. They have motive and corporate duty to provide as little service as possible, for as much cost as possible --- for starters.

Of all the health plans being suggested and tried in attempts to fix the disastrous, homicidal, inhumane, abysmally costly current U.S. health system, the worst by far are the ones that compel or coerce citizens to purchase insurance from private, for-profit insurance businesses. This monster has arisen in Massachusetts and is threatened in Vermont, Rhode Island and elsewhere.
That is, those who don’t or can’t get their health coverage elsewhere (Medicare, self-insurance, etc.) must shop, as if for a new weed-whacker, amongst the claims and promises and P.R. and sales staff of profit oriented insurance businesses in order to comply with the law and to avoid various penalties. Employers, with so much time to spare from their businesses, must also go shopping.

Though such systems are said to be “affordable”, and that they “provide health care to all”, that simply means that big insurers will now get a windfall of something, instead of nothing, from the everyone, including the currently uninsured.

There are multiple reasons why this is the worst possible “solution” for the country’s health situation in general:

* Most who follow health care deliberations know about, and condemn the waste due to redundancy of insurers, redundancy of paperwork, the complex incomprehensibility of the system, the privacy invasions for “life style” excuses, and the expenses that are utterly non-health-related, such as advertising, CEO bonuses, campaign contributions, conventions, corporate jets, and even lawn care and furniture polish at insurers’ headquarters. These are things paid for by compulsory auto insurance for drivers as well... Though few have risen to ask what possible Public Interest can be shown for forcing drivers to pay for those extraneous things. Same can be asked by “health care consumers.” But there is more.

* Insurers are investors. The industry is said to be the largest investment community on Wall Street. That is, what was ostensibly a person’s health care money is funneled off to support --- to buy shares of --- various industries that many would not care to invest in and that most don’t even know about. An insurance “customer” might be unknowingly providing funds to invest in businesses that one may oppose for moral, religious, political or business reasons. An anti-war activist may be indirectly and unknowingly providing funds for investments in military contractors. Fundamentalist religious persons may be providing investment money for whatever they condemn, be it sexy entertainments, “abortion pills”, stem cell research, firms that recognize gay rights, and so forth. Progressives may be providing investment loot going to prisons, union-busting firms, sweat shops, child labor, torture devices, bombs and tanks, all sorts of environmentally damaging industries and, who knows?, even the Fox Network. Insurance “consumers” may be, second-handedly investing in firms that are competitors to their own businesses or personal investment properties.

* Insurers may be invested in, or business insurers of, health-damaging industries, even the ones that might have caused a premium owner’s health problems. The tip of this iceberg was revealed by articles by three prominent members of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), Dr.s Himmelstein, Woolhandler and Boyd. The work was published in JAMA and the British medical journal, "The Lancet." It wasn’t exactly hidden; it’s just unfortunately, even tragically, ignored in most quarters. It was about top U.S. “health” insurers’ multi-million dollar investments in none other than top Cigarette Manufacturers.

What could be more of a scandalous embarrassment for such insurers than to be exposed as significant owners of the most condemned, vilified, scorned and hated industry on the planet? And this, even as they a) advise against using the very products they invest in, and b) refuse to insure or charge more for those who use those products. If such insurers are Concerned About Our Health they certainly don’t show this by any words or actions to remove carcinogenic, toxic, kid-attracting, addiction-enhancing and even fire-causing non-tobacco substances from cigarettes... Or to even warn anyone about such things.

Well, of course they won’t do this; it would be a liability disaster for cigarette makers, their pesticide providers, chlorine in general (tobacco pesticides and bleached cigarette paper), the paper providers, additives suppliers, and the insurers themselves. They, and their allies in government regulatory agencies, prefer to pass blame to the well-demonized Easy Targets... The victims for “smoking” and the unpatented, public-domain, though “sinful”, tobacco plant.

If health [sic] insurers are invested in other health threatening/health damaging industries such as chlorine, pesticides, nukes, depleted uranium,
mountaintop-removal mining, oil, combustion engines, mercury, emissions-producing synthetic fabrics, BGH-contaminated foods, asbestos, lead mining, etc., the information hasn’t yet been televised.

* If insurers are invested in, are insurers of, or have other economic links (shared board memberships, etc.) to health damaging industries, that insurer, and the professionals between it and a patient, have motive and even corporate duty to shareholders to hide or minimize, or not even look for, harms caused to patients by their investment properties. Imagine the burden on doctors working under the umbrella of these insurers. Their careers would be endangered, at least, if they exposed a liability problem for certain investments.

Such insurers, and subsidiaries and associates, etc., have motive and corporate duty to blame every non-industrial thing under (and including) the sun for a patient’s health problems. We are routinely told that illnesses are caused by too much sun, bad diet, insufficient exercise, faulty genes, insects, germs, plants (like tobacco), personal behavior, and that standby, the unknown. We are not routinely, or ever, tested for or asked about exposures to pesticides, chlorine chemicals, dioxins, radiation, synthetic materials, artificial sweeteners, heavy metals in foods, petroleum distillates, hormones and antibiotics in food, and so forth.

* If health insurers are invested in, or are insurers of, pharmaceutical firms, insurers have that same motive and corporate duty to promote the drugs made by their investment properties even though another drug may be safer, cheaper and more effective. Such an insurer may promote its own property’s drugs even if they are not needed. And such a pharm-invested insurer may ignore, hide, or not look for harms caused by an investment property’s drugs. If one is hoping for proper health care administration by an owner of Snake-Oil Corp, one is hoping in vain. For an informed parent to send a child into such a system for health care ought constitute prosecutable child endangerment.

The immense cruelty here is, what options are there? As it is now, people are given the “choice” of patronizing this corrupted system, traveling to a civilized country with a true public health system, or facing untreated illness, and death, and having their children do the same.

* The Fifth Amendment prohibits compulsory speech except in extraordinary cases like grand juries or reporting child abuse, and the like. The Massachusetts health plan compels speech from all, to private businesses. This is unlike with auto-insurance where officials say that, well, no one is compelled to drive….even though many pretty much have to drive in order to make a living, to get to schools and shops, to get to medical care, to be care givers and so on. The Supreme Court years back berserkly ruled that money is a form of speech---thus giving the wealthy billions more “words” than the rest of us. Therefore, residents of Massachusetts are to be compelled to speak to private insurers with both money and words. Rights to remain silent have been removed. Commonwealth officials might say,well…no one’s compelling you to live in Massachusetts. They could as well say, you don’t have to live…period.

* As far as the Constitution is concerned, there is more. If a resident, resisting the Protection Racket aspects of this situation, does not hand over money to an insurer, and then challenges the penalty, can the case even be heard in Massachusetts where judges and jurors are all likely patrons of private insurers? Due Process requires judges and jurors to withdraw if they have economic links to a party in the case.

* Insurers are not yet required to up-front reveal to customers what investments they own. The Right To Know is as ignored here as it is in the ingredients of most drugs, chemical products, foods, cigarettes, cosmetics, and so on. The information about where an insurer invests is public information available at the SEC (Securities & Exchange Commission) or via its EDGAR database…an info source too complicated for all but the most skilled to navigate, if a person even knows about it.

If a government, such as Massachusetts, is to make Private Insurance a de-facto agency of government, there can be no “trade secret” or other business-related excuses to keep the new compulsory customers in the dark about the nature of insurers’ investment and business insurance connections.

Since those connections would be seen by even the pigeons on Harvard Square as unacceptable conflicts-of-interest, the demand might rise for insurers that invest only in, say, organics, solar, hemp, natural vitamins and nutrients, and other patently benign industries to be permitted anywhere near the compulsory system. Since it is unlikely that such an insurer exists (they would have advertised that by now), the only remaining health care, and health protecting, option for that state and the entire country is a progressive tax-funded, public-administered system.


*************

To view the article on "The Lancet" see:
http://www.pnhp.org/news/2000/march/insurers_are_major_i.php

Or search up phrases like “PNHP insurance tobacco”
or the like.

This work is in the public domain.
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