DRHOOK- Health insurance: Uncle can't be worse than private companies

the handsome doctor John Hong of Charlottesville

The Bank of America should be renamed to Bank of Paying Executives Big Money. Ken Lewis, BOA CEO, is stepping down with a $53 million pension plan– ah, when he's already worth $125 million! So it's pretty clear that some of that rescue money from the $700 billion bailout is going to his mansion and yacht.

Our tax money bailout definitely didn't help my small medical practice. Bank of America called me recently and said, "Oh, didn't anyone tell you this? Your line of credit has been canceled. I don't know why, but they want you to pay in full by next week." [This same alleged behavior by a BoA acquiree launched Halsey Minor's federal lawsuit against Merrill Lynch.]

After 10 years of doing business with a bank without one hitch and with perfect credit, don't you think they would be a bit kinder? (Oh, excuse me. That thought came from Mayberry, not the real world.) 

So what makes people think they're safe with big-business health insurance?

I'm continually fascinated to hear people fear the government will do a worse job in health care than the private insurance companies. True, the government really stinks at many things, but I think people are delusional to expect the current private insurance companies are doing a good job. Blanche! (slap) Wake up!

First of all, health insurance drives businesses away by jacking their rates each year because their business is making a profit. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard a patient complain their health benefits are getting worse, I'd be a billion-nickelaire. Folks are paying more out of each paycheck for their health insurance, paying more out of pocket for higher deductibles (like up to $3 to 5,000 a year), paying higher prices for medicines, etc. 

I know some people turn down their health insurance because they can't afford their share. A store manager just told me he doesn't have health insurance because his wife was laid off and they can't afford the insurance offered by his place of employment.

Lots of Americans complain that Canadians have to wait a long time to see a specialist, but the same situation already exists here. One of my really sick patients, who is fully insured, couldn't see a specialist at a university hospital for over six months– and he wasn't even allowed to make any appointment. We were told to call back in six months to see if they would allow new patients to be seen. (This would never happen to JR Ewing or Alexis Carrington.)

I have plenty of patients who haven't done health maintenance things in years (colonoscopies, mammograms, bone density scans) because their insurance doesn't cover much of the cost. 

Those who lose health insurance for more than a couple of months might never be able to be insured again– because their pre-existing conditions will make their rates higher than a Park Avenue mortgage or they're simply declined. 

What's the point in getting health insurance if your diabetes won't be covered? "Oh, sure Mrs. X, we'll cover any new problems you might face, but any problems you have with your diabetes (like vision, kidneys, toes, medicines, blood sugars) are a big no-no."

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota used premium payments to give out $15 million in company bonuses and– get this– throw a $35,000 retirement party.

I wonder how many folks they told "No chemotherapy for you!" to get their fun money?


Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with a local practice and an interesting website, drjohnhong.com. Email him with your questions.



This is an accurante and fair accounting of the situation. It's shameful, considering the wealth of our country.

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Those seeking health insurance might want to contact the Farm Bureau at 293-5775 on East Market Street (across from the Guadalajara Restaurant.) They sell Blue Cross/Blue Shield to Virginia residents and some of their plans are quite good when compared to the federal plan I have as a retiree.

Amen brother, it seems that the entire republican party is OK with funding both wars but want to put the brakes on health care reform. Some call me a conspiracy theorist because I believe that many leaders of the republican party are paid by those who would profit from war, to promote it. War is big business, I know first hand from working for General Electric during the cold war.
I also believe that leaders of the republican party are paid by health care companies to put the kaibash on any reform that would kill the golden egg laying goose.
The lack of any detailed alternatives put forth by the republican party, and the misinformation spewed forth by sarah palin, rush lindberger, etc. is just a smokescreen. The american public is not educating themselves beyond the cofee shop. Reading the newspaper is too much trouble. Divide and conquer is a tactic that is working.
Fact is, we already have socialized medicine by the name of medicare advantage, the health care companies administer it and make huge profits from taxpayer dollars doing so.
We already have death panels because coverage is either denied or way too expensive for persons with terminal or chronic disease. Health care companies devote a lot of energy toward something called "loss prevention" which is basically finding creative ways of denying benefits or raising premiums until we all go broke.
Don't believe for a minute that I am a Democrat, they are just as bad as republicans. They just want to pass something, anything to get political clout. Paying for the plan by raising taxes is criminal. If I have to balance my books at the end of each month, govt should do the same.
Cut spending, cut spending, cut spending, and then pay for health care and give us a tax cut along with it!!~!
Until a powerful third party rises in this country we will have government of the special interest, by the special interest, and for the special interest only.

Americans should take better care of themselves, learn basic economics and save for a rainy day because it is fixin to rain like hell in this country.