Friday, October 16, 2009

The S-Word and Dr. Kevorkian's Accountant


by Greg Palast

Wendell Potter tells Greg Palast health insurers' dirty secret.
Wendell Potter tells Greg Palast health insurers' dirty secret. (Photo: Fighting Bob Fest)

 Health care Rx from my socialist fire department.

    Tell me where it hurts, Mr. President.

    What's killing you, Barack, is what's killing us all: an evil germ called "Medical Loss Ratio."

    "Medical Loss Ratio" [MLR] is the fancy term used by health insurance companies for their slice, their take-out, their pound of flesh, their gross - very gross - profit.

    The "MLR" is the difference between what you pay an insurance company and what that insurer pays out to doctors, hospitals and pharmacists for your medical care.

    I've totted it up from the raw stats: The "MLR," insurance companies' margins, is about to top - holy mama! - a quarter trillion dollars a year. That's $2.7 trillion over the next decade.

    Until the 1990's, insurers skimmed only about a nickel on the dollar for their "service," Wendell Potter told me. Potter is the CIGNA insurance company PR man who came in from the cold to tell us about what goes down inside the health insurance gold mine. Today, Potter notes (and I've checked his accuracy), porky operators like AIG have kicked up their Loss Ratio by nearly 500 percent.

    The industries' slice is growing to nearly a quarter of your insurance bill. All of it just paperwork and profiteering.

    President Obama is never going to pull the insurance company piggies from a trough this big, especially when the industry has made room for Congressional snouts.

    So what's the Rx? Easy: Kill the pigs and call the fire department.

    The only solution to Loss Ratio piggery is to kill the pigs: eliminate health insurers from the health industry entirely.

    We can't cure our ills, as our president has attempted, by attacking the problem ass-backwards. No, Mr. Obama, we don't need HEALTH INSURANCE for everyone, we need HEALTH CARE for everyone. There's a giant difference. Instead of concentrating on PAYMENT, we need to focus solely on providing the health SERVICE.

    From my London days writing for The Guardian, I can tell you the British do NOT have national health insurance. They have a National Health Service.

   The government builds hospitals, hires doctors and, when you need the service, you just go and get it. It's kind of like the fire department. When your house is on fire, you don't call your fire insurance company, you call THE FIRE DEPARTMENT. We care first about the service, not the payment.

    The British government hires the doctors, like firemen, and Brits use them, like firemen, as they need them.

    It works. My mother-in-law, a nurse, on a visit to England, was stunned at the speed, quality and absence of mad paperwork to fix her broken arm.

    But, you might say, that's, that's SOCIALISM! Well, yes, it is. And I'm not afraid to use the S-word: Socialized Medicine. Just like America's Socialized Fire Departments. (Fun fact: socialized, i.e. publicly funded, fire departments were 'invented' by the revolutionary Ben Franklin.)

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