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