Sunday, September 23, 2018

I *heart* insurance companies

by LesleyMo (writer), , December 07, 2009

Credit: Photo by Yasin Ozturk
Heartwarming tales from health insurance giants

Who says health insurance companies don't have a heart?

Sometimes big corporations get a bad rap. But hey, this is the season of love and peace. I think we should give them a break! Surely they have good reasons for doing what they do.

So, in the spirit of love and peace, I looked up the mission statements for the country's 3 largest health insurance companies.

Wow. Golly gee. I had no idea they were so compassionate and idealistic.

Brought a little tear to my eye.

Here are the 3 mission statements. Each one is followed by an actual news story that demonstrates just exactly how compassionate and idealistic these companies are.

Gigantic Insurance Company # 1: UnitedHealth
2008 profits: $2.997 billion (this was, amazingly, a 36% DROP from 2007)

Heart-warming mission statement:
"Our mission is to help people live healthier lives. We seek to enhance the performance of the health system and improve the overall health and well-being of the people we serve and their communities."

News story:
January 16, 2009
UnitedHealth Settles Lawsuit Over Insurance Claims

Investigators found that UnitedHealth subsidiary, Ingenix, was providing faulty data which helped the giant insurer under-pay medical claims, thus shifting costs unfairly to the customers. UnitedHealth admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to pay $350 million.

($350 million? Heck, they have more than that stuffed between the couch cushions in the employee lunch room.)

Gigantic Insurance Company # 2: WellPoint
2008 profits: $2.490 billion

Heart-warming mission statement:
"To improve the lives of the people we serve and the health of our communities."

News story:
April, 2009
Biggest Health Insurer Admits: We Put Profits Before People

WellPoint CEO Angela Brady told investors during a conference call: "We will not sacrifice profitability for membership."

(In other words, money counts. People don't. Plus, you guys appear to have stolen UnitedHealth's mission statement. Come on, you could at least make up your own crap.)

Gigantic Insurance Company # 3: Aetna
2008 profits: $1.384 billion

Mission statement:
"We help people achieve health and financial security by providing easy access to cost-effective, high-quality health care"

News story:
December 4, 2009
Aetna Forcing 600,000-Plus To Lose Coverage In Effort To Raise Profits

Just in time for the holidays, Aetna has announced that it will be raising rates in 2010. Because of the higher rates, the company expects to lose between 600,000 and 650,000 customers. Chairman and CEO Ron Williams explained that the price hikes instituted in 2009 simply were not high enough. "The pricing we put in place for 2009 turned out to not really be what we needed to achieve the results and margins that we had historically been delivering," he said.

(Excuse me Ron, but I'm a little confused. Where is the "financial security" for the 600,000 people who can no longer afford your "cost-effective health care"?)

You really have to hand it to these benevolent, kindly health insurance companies. They obviously have someone's best interests at heart.

Can you guess whose?

About the Writer

LesleyMo is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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7 comments on I *heart* insurance companies

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By Lady D on December 07, 2009 at 11:22 am

This shoud be read before congress. Can we email this to our congress people?

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By mdifran on December 11, 2009 at 09:48 am

This myopic, emotional, smug treatment of the health insurance industry is lacking in actual information or reality. The main costs of insurance companies like UnitedHealth are the payments made for its customers' medical care and yet you have completely ignored the rising costs of health care in your article. You keep mentioning that insurance companies are raising premiums, trying ways to make money, and leaving members in the dust. What, exactly, do you expect from the industry? With costs rising through the roof (and for good reason, see David Cutler's "Your Money or Your Life"), do you expect insurance companies to just take the loss and move on? If that happened, we wouldn't have insurance companies and we would all depend on the government to fund our healthcare needs (see the funding woes in the UK and Germany to see if they are evading rising costs).

Is that to say that health insurance companies are innocent and that our healthcare system is perfect? No idiot would argue for that, and I surely won't because it's clearly not true. It's just that healthcare, healthcare reform, and health insurance are about a lot more than just money-grabbing CEOs.

Given the complexity of the system and the financial arrangements that must be made, I don't believe your one-sided, ill-informed opinion (devoid of many facts) justifies your smug treatment of the issue.

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By LesleyMo on December 11, 2009 at 10:00 am

Goodness. Take a deep breath, mdifran. I actually thought my article was quite informative and factual. The numbers, mission statements, and news headlines are all based on actual information and reality.

The fact is, as you know, the insurance companies are in business to make a profit. They do a fine job of that. Ironically, and sadly, the pursuit of money and the pursuit of health care are often mutually exclusive. The insurance companies do indeed raise premiums, try to find ways to make money, and leave members in the dust. I expect nothing less. That is their job. That is exactly what I was trying to point out, in my mypoic, emotional, smug, one-sided, and ill-informed little way.

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By Innocent Owner on December 11, 2009 at 11:21 am

Health insurance companies put a maximum payout for procedure or visit. When a doctor or medical facility agrees to accept the insurance they agree to except no more then the established cap. In other words, a doctor can charge $400 an hour but if the cap is only $200, that is all the insurance is going to pay and the doctor accepts it. Run away medical cost is a lame excuse. Billions in profit is overkill for making money.

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By mdifran on December 11, 2009 at 02:10 pm

Innocent Owner, those prices are negotiated between physician practice groups and the insurance company. The practice group and/or hospital (especially very large ones) have the option of not taking that fee that you mentioned. Of course, they have to take it most of the time if the physicians want patients, but it is not as if insurance companies have been capping their costs for the past 10 years. They have risen because the health industry forces them to rise through negotiations. That is one huge difference between a multiple-payer system (like in the US) and a single payer one (Canada, UK) where doctors could never deny a contract with the ONE insurer. If one insurer is denied by a doctor, many others will end up feeding patients into the practice.

Additionally, with the demise of strict managed care (HMOs) in the late 1990s and early 2000s has given patients more direct access to more expensive therapies. Whether this, in theory, is good or bad is a topic for another discussion. The financial realities are that this makes costs more expensive for insurance companies, hence the rise in insurance premiums. Runaway medical costs is not a lame excuse, it IS the reason why premiums have gone up, unless you have evidence of insurance companies drastically increasing their profit shares (something like 5% plus or minus a few points, although that figure varies).

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By LesleyMo on December 11, 2009 at 03:36 pm

You're right, mdifran, there are many reasons why medical costs have risen. We definitely need more focus on prevention here in the States. We will have to grapple somehow with the relative benefit of expensive therapies and endless tests. We need to put some type of safety net in place so people aren't going to the emergency room for minor illnesses.

And ... in my opinion, we need to get rid of the monopoly that allows the insurers to raise rates willy-nilly, way beyond the rate of inflation. In fact, I would get rid of the insurers altogether if I was in charge of the world. When the insurance company CEO's are making tens of millions of dollars a year, you can't convince me that runaway medical costs are the only problem.

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By Vespasian Stanislas on June 09, 2011 at 03:44 pm

I didn't know one can make so much money by working in the insurance industry. I had nothing to do with these companies, with these great colossi, but I made a deal with the <a href="">Landlords Insurance</a> company and they were very nice. Thanks for this lovely article, I am looking forward to reading more about this field.

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