Health Insurers Are Shooting Themselves In The Foot

 

If the large health insurers are trying to improve the chances of nationalized health care, they’re doing a fine job.  Tesitfying before Congress, the heads of Wellpoint, United Health and Assurant when asked if they would stop rescinding policies unless they could determine the misrepresentation was intentional, replied ‘No.’

As a wealth manager, I spend more time than I care to calculate dealing with health insurance issues for my small business clients.  Premiums continue to increase while coverage is decreased and deductibles/co-pays rise.  Add to this the chance that , when the coverage is needed most, namely in the case of serious illness, the policy could be rescinded due to a simple oversight and it’s no wonder there’s animosity toward the carriers.

There are legitimate cases where an applicant fails to disclose health issues that would impact the pricing or acceptability of the policy.  Instead of looking for ways to avoid paying claims through use of recission, the insurers should limit their recissions to cases where:

  1. The applicant clearly knew about the condition and concealed it from the insurer.
  2. The insurer would not have issued the policy had they known the information.
  3. The unreported information is directly related to the illness the policyholder is currently being treated for.

In all other cases, the insurers should be allowed to deduct the additional premium they WOULD HAVE received had they known about the undisclosed condition but should be required to pay the claim as indicated in their contract.

By taking a short-term profit view and using technicalities to avoid paying claims, they simply shooting themselves in the foot.  This type of bad ‘corporate behavior’ is making it easier and easier for the public to decide that a government-run, single-payer system is preferable to the shenanigans of a for-profit system.

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House Republicans Need to Get a Clue

Well, as cynical as I am about politics, the Republicans in the House of Representatives just dropped my own cynicism to a historic low.  The House just now FAILED to pass the bailout package that was negotiated over the weekend.  The result?  As this is being written, the Dow Industrial Average is down more than 500 points.

Republicans, who overwhelmingly rejected the bailout package, just had a press conference wherein they blamed not the package itself, but a ‘partisan’ speech given by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi that apparently angered some Republicans enough that they voted no, despite previously indicating that they would vote yes.  The bailout package didn’t change, but apparently hurt feelings are enough to change somebody’s mind.  Seriously, a no vote because you essentially got your feeling hurt?  What are we, in third grade again?  Are you so clueless that you truly cannot put aside partisan politics to help this country avoid economic calamity and get back on the road to recovery?

While our economic system is wounded, clearly our political system is completely broken, when a group of ELECTED officials find it impossible to do what’s right for the American public because they got their feelings hurt.

Life on some tropical Polynesian island run by a king is starting to look pretty appealing right about now.

Congress Just Doesn’t Get It

Congress continues to debate the government bailout package proposed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Fed chair Ben Bernanke and SEC chair Christopher Cox.  In the meantime, the markets are spooked and the credit markets are on the brink of complete collapse.  It seems, as always, that Congress just doesn’t get it.

The Congress may have forgotten (or most may not know) that the Great Depression not caused by the stock market crash of 1929, but by the failure of the Government to provide the liquidity banks needed at the time to keep their doors open and lend money to their customers.  While I’m not saying that we’re on the brink of another Great Depression (I’m an optimist by nature), we’re in a similar credit crunch and failure to act could damage our already struggling economy and add years to the time it will take to recover.

Ron Paul was right in his CNNPolitics.com commentary that this mess was created by artificially low interest rates that magnified the real estate bubble, and while his solution of rolling back stifling laws and regulations, divorcing oursleves of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reducing the Federal buget deficit and reducing regulation will work in the long term, in the immediate term, this bailout is the best alternative we have to stabilize not only the U.S. economy, but the world economy as well.

Congress needs to finally get a clue, quickly put together a proposal with the oversight and CEO restrictions they want and pass the damn bill so the financial markets can return to some form of normalcy.