November 04, 2013

The insurance sellout called #Obamacare

The failure of our neoliberal Dear Leader to push for a single-payer "Medicare for All" national health insurance program, rather than the hypercapitalist-driven, insurance-lobbyist written Obamacare, becomes clearer by the day.

Insurance companies cancelling policies without telling now ex-policyholders about options in the exchanges. 
Donna received the letter canceling her insurance plan on Sept. 16. Her insurance company, LifeWise of Washington, told her that they'd identified a new plan for her. If she did nothing, she'd be covered. 

A 56-year-old Seattle resident with a 57-year-old husband and 15-year-old daughter, Donna had been looking forward to the savings that the Affordable Care Act had to offer.

But that's not what she found. Instead, she'd be paying an additional $300 a month for coverage. The letter made no mention of the health insurance marketplace that would soon open in Washington, where she could shop for competitive plans, and only an oblique reference to financial help that she might qualify for, if she made the effort to call and find out. ...

 Across the country, insurance companies have sent misleading letters to consumers, trying to lock them into the companies' own, sometimes more expensive health insurance plans rather than let them shop for insurance and tax credits on the Obamacare marketplaces -- which could lead to people like Donna spending thousands more for insurance than the law intended. In some cases, mentions of the marketplace in those letters are relegated to a mere footnote, which can be easily overlooked. 
And, surely, continuing to do this because Team Obama's use of Twitter as a PR beatdown mechanism, while good for press pushback, does bupkis to actually rein in insurance companies.
"You never find an organization that is collectively this good at Twitter," said Peter LaMotte, head of digital communications practice at Levick, who advises major corporations on using social media.
The story details just how much this is true, on Twitter as PR weapon.. 

Insurance companies playing a time-generated version of marketplace skimming to avoid poorer risks. (Which, in turn, is being spun in conservative press outlets, then attacked by Team Obama's Twitter-swarm, but still continuing to happen.)

“The company’s plans reflect its concern that the first wave of newly insured customers under the law may be the costliest,” UHC Chief Executive Officer Stephen Helmsley told investors last October. “UnitedHealth will watch and see how the exchanges evolve and expects the first enrollees will have ‘a pent-up appetite’ for medical care. We are approaching them with some degree of caution because of that.”

The company packed its bags and dumped its beneficiaries because it wants its competitors to swallow the first wave of sicker enrollees only to re-enter the market later and profit from the healthy people who still haven’t signed up for coverage. 
But, the state of California, playing its neoliberal version of hypercapitalized state politics, contributed to this:
The two insurers were also operating at a tax disadvantage in the state. As California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones explained, “One of the factors I believe contributed to this decision….is the special tax break that California law gives to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which has allowed and continues to allow those two companies to avoid paying $100 million in state taxes a year.” “Aetna and United Healthcare don’t get the special tax break provided to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and so they faced a major competitive disadvantage in California.”
So, there you go.

Will Aetna and UHC demand their own tax breaks to come back in the market? Why wouldn't they?

Anyway, this is just the tip of an iceberg of a "national health care" plan that may only insure one-quarter or so of the currently uninsured, as I blogged before. Or maybe one-third, if we make allowance for the young uninsureds who will deliberately pay the tax penalty, which is modest, rather than buy insurance. (Wait for insurers to lobby for an increased penalty after Obama's out of office.)

So, there's shoes that will continue dropping for some time.

Yes, I will agree with Team Obama that we shouldn't judge Obamacare by a clunky website.

Instead, we should (faux outrage from Faux News types aside) judge it by how well insurers can ultimately game it.

Stay tuned for how much insurance companies cram inside that "80 percent for actual services" provision, as I blogged before, including cutting staff to make sure CEOs get their continued large cut. After all, some companies are already cutting commissions to sales agents.

Stay tuned for how little electronic patient data and records actually save, vs. how much money it makes for the companies creating their software, as I've blogged before. Also stay tuned for how little they're able to communicate with each other.

Stay tuned for the possibility of more employers dumping their health care coverage — as I've blogged before, in fact, more than once.  Which will then lead us to further ask if there is that much savings from Obamacare or not, since that was a touted point.

No comments: