Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Public Health Care Option


There has been a lot of recent discussion and disagreement over a "public" health care option. Some of the Democrats, including the President, want a public health care option that would be similar to the health care plan offered to members of congress. This public plan would be just one plan that people could choose from when selecting their health insurance. As can be imagined, this idea hasn't gone over very well with Republicans. However, the other day some health care executives did a good job of unintentionally making the case for such a plan:

An investigation by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations showed that health insurers WellPoint Inc., UnitedHealth Group and Assurant Inc. canceled the coverage of more than 20,000 people, allowing the companies to avoid paying more than $300 million in medical claims over a five-year period.

It also found that policyholders with breast cancer, lymphoma and more than 1,000 other conditions were targeted for rescission and that employees were praised in performance reviews for terminating the policies of customers with expensive illnesses.
So just to be clear here, people enroll and pay their health insurance premiums in order to be covered when something goes wrong, but when they get sick, these insurance companies cancel their coverage. This practice must have been going on under the radar and surely couldn't be endorsed by the CEO's of these companies right?

Late in the hearing, Stupak, the committee chairman, put the executives on the spot. Stupak asked each of them whether he would at least commit his company to immediately stop rescissions except where they could show "intentional fraud."

The answer from all three executives:


Wow. A public option would force these insurance companies to treat their customers fairly.

Hat Tip: Kevin Drum


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