If you didn’t know before that health insurance is BIG business you’ll know it when you read the following headlines. Anthem Inc. a US health insurance company is buying out rival Cigna in a deal valued at $54.2 billion.
But let me start by asking, just what are we paying for when we are forced to buy health insurance? Here’s what I recently found out. I went to a HMO clinic with a friend for her first appointment with a primary care doctor. She wanted several skin lesions looked at and a referral for a colonoscopy.
Here’s what her appointment looked like: She was asked to fill out a very brief medical history form. A medical technician (not a nurse) weighed her in the hallway of this very large clinic. She was told she could leave her shoes on. Her blood pressure was taken over her clothes. She was not given a gown for her physical exam. In fact, when she saw the doctor he didn’t even touch her. She mentioned her skin lesions and asked if she should get up and go over to his desk for him to examine them because he made no move to come to her. He said not to bother, that he would have a technician come in and take a picture of the worst skin lesion and send it to a dermatologist to see if she needed a referral. She has a history of previous intestinal polyps, which were removed on her last colonoscopy 8 years ago and a positive family history of fatal colon cancer but instead of an immediate referral she was given a fecal stool test kit for blood in the stool to determine IF she was eligible for a colonoscopy. I cannot express how shocked I was at this absolute disregard for proper medical attention and the fact that the staff and doctor could easily have been replaced by a bright 10-year old.
Cigna and Anthem are both publicly traded companies. I know very little about the stock market but I do know that a company that trades its stock is not beholding to the public that it serves, but to its stock holders to give them the most money possible in their quarterly dividends. Such companies will always look for the bottom line of saving money. As far as I can tell from the stories my clients tell me – health insurance companies spend a lot of time and effort on denying services and procedures to their customers instead of giving people the therapies they require.
With a merger like this we would hope they will reduce costs and overhead etc. and GIVE US LOWER PREMIUMS for the health insurance we are forced to purchase. But that’s not what’s being reported in the media.
One CNN Money reporter said that “Some doctors are concerned that the mergers will put too much power in just a handful of insurance companies. The American Medical Association said the mergers will ‘reduce competition and decrease choice.’ There are also worries that costs for customers will go up because of less competition.
Now that there are only 3 major health insurance companies we can say goodbye to the possibility of alternative medicine being covered and we are left to fend for ourselves.
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Carolyn Dean MD ND
The Doctor of the Future™
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