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Privacy Medicine Your Rights Online

Your Medical Treatment History Is For Sale 607

Posted by kdawson
from the slippery-cliff dept.
PizzaFace writes "The Washington Post reports on the booming business of selling your medical treatment records. Today these are mainly records of your prescriptions, but the data warehouses will soon have records of your lab tests, too. The companies selling these records make it easy for insurance companies to avoid risk by assigning each person a health score, similar to a credit score, or by flagging items in each person's history that suggest chronic or potentially expensive health problems. It's not just for insurers, either; employers who check applicants' credit scores will surely be interested in their health scores as well."
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Your Medical Treatment History Is For Sale

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  • by clang_jangle (975789) * on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @02:33PM (#24484991) Journal
    Looks to me like this is an excellent time to read up on alternative treatment methods, as the barabaric, for-profit US "healthcare system" appears hell-bent on becoming less and less available to those of us with imperfect health and fewer than several gazillions of dollars.

    Here you can RTFA all on one page [washingtonpost.com].
    • by garett_spencley (193892) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @02:40PM (#24485117) Journal

      Maybe I'm missing something and there's a loop-hole, but AFAIK In Canada selling this information is illegal, and I thought that medical records were confidential in the US as well (apparently not). In Canada patients and health care professionals have client/doctor confidentiality similar to client / lawyer confidentiality. A doctor's office would lose it's practice if it handed over information to anyone without the patient's consent.

      Of course there's downsides to our system too. Since health care is public doctor's can only charge so much and thus the only way to increase their income is to get more and more patients so doctors are over-worked and the waiting rooms are always packed with huge waits. Plus more and more of our top doctors move to the US where they can earn more. There's gotta be some kind of happy medium where everyone wins.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Maybe I'm missing something and there's a loop-hole, but AFAIK In Canada selling this information is illegal, and I thought that medical records were confidential in the US as well (apparently not). In Canada patients and health care professionals have client/doctor confidentiality similar to client / lawyer confidentiality. A doctor's office would lose it's practice if it handed over information to anyone without the patient's consent. Similar laws exist in the US. From my understanding, the loophole here
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Abcd1234 (188840)

        AFAIK In Canada selling this information is illegal

        That it is... well, unless you sign a disclosure, which the article claims is required if you want to get insurance in the first place. So you're basically boned in the US if you want health care coverage *and* your personal privacy.

      • by Animaether (411575) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @03:09PM (#24485805) Journal

        "thus the only way to increase their income is to get more and more patients"

        Not really.. they can go work in a private clinic, or they can work in another country (as you already pointed out). Thank goodness there's many doctors who don't particularly care about increasing their income - who got into the job because they can genuinely help fellow man and all that sort of altruistic stuff that we, as a society, are far too eager to write off and laugh at. These are doctors who will give treatment for free if needed (and sometimes if not*), instead of some doctors only giving free treatment while on a P.R. trip to a poor country (not dissing the gesture, just dissing the motives).

        And, let's be honest, they don't really -need- the higher income because they don't have to worry about multi-million dollar malpractice suits looming around every single corner and the insurance that goes with it.

        I'm not saying that 'socialized' healthcare is panacea.. far from it.. but that "happy medium where everyone wins" should not be led by the desire to make more money - focus instead on reducing or eliminating the negatives you mentioned.

        * I had a nasty bruised-looking toe - walked (well, semi-hopped) straight into the hospital (hadn't registered for a GP yet after moving), got to see a doc in 10 minutes who had an x-ray made 5 minutes later 'just to be safe', determined that it was indeed broken as he suspected, got me a splint, had a nurse put it on while he moved on to another patient, came back to do a quick check to make sure it was on right, and sent me on my way. That's it. Didn't send me past administration for my insurance info on my way out, and certainly not on my way in.. I was a guy with a nasty bruised-looking toe who needed to have a look at it done by a doc and that's all they cared about. Thanks, MCH. I know this is anecdotal, and I'm all too familiar with waiting lists as well, but it's not nearly as bad as some make it out to be. Being on a waiting list for an organ, however, does suck - but that seems to be the case regardless of medical system; short of countries where there's a lively 'grey'/black market in organs. Yikes.

      • "Since health care is public doctor's can only charge so much and thus the only way to increase their income is to get more and more patients so doctors are over-worked and the waiting rooms are always packed with huge waits. Plus more and more of our top doctors move to the US where they can earn more."

        I see you bought into the propaganda. The governments allocate a certain portion of the budget to GP expenses (ie: Doctors office visits). Which means, Doctors can only see so many patients before the budget is blown. Waiting room times have severely diminished thanks to Alberta led procedures. And because of caps, they can't hire more Doctors.

        The Provincial Governments don't increase this funding when population grows - hence they kept saying it was 'unsustainable' (and run Provincial surpluses cause they can't count!). And people bought the BS. Too bad Slashdot doesn't allow attachments, because the Conference Board of Canada has some eye opening reports that contradict your memes. And links are useless, as the CBoC is a for-pay site.

      • The information does not come from doctors. From TFA:

        Ingenix and Milliman create the profiles by plumbing rich databases of prescription drug histories kept by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), which help insurers process drug claims.

        Wikipedia has more on PBMs [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Kamokazi (1080091)

      To play devil's advocate, why should those of us with good health have to pay extra for your problems? We still need heath insurance in case an accident happens (if we develop a condition, then we would be in the 'bad' health boat with you), but paying higher rates because 80% of the population has more problems (or visits the doctor more frequently because they think they do) isn't exactly fair either.

      This is a very complex issue that I don't even remotely pretend to have the answer to, and US helth costs

      • by jgarra23 (1109651)


        And this health score thing is definately NOT the answer. Even people in good health would really rather not let additional people know they had a vasectemy, eh?

        Agreed. This sort of thing will make the black-market health care industry explode. Plenty of people for various legit and not-so-much reasons wouldn't want people to know they've had this or that surgery or treatment.

      • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @02:57PM (#24485561) Homepage Journal
        To play devil's advocate, why should those of us with good health have to pay extra for your problems?

        Because on a long enough timeline, the chance that you won't get sick approaches 0.
      • by Lord Apathy (584315) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @02:58PM (#24485577)

        And to play devil's advocate to your devil's advocate what happens to you if your good health turns out not to be as good as you think it is?

        I don't think someone should be made to pay higher healthcare costs for stuff that isn't his fault. But I think it should be fair game on lifestyle choices. If you smoke or drink then I think you should pay more in to the "system."

        The really sad part I see is people seem to think the healthcare in general sucks. Which I don't see as true. Medicine in general is the best it has ever been. What sucks is the bureaucracy and the bullshit that as built up around it.

      • by Applekid (993327) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @03:04PM (#24485697)

        Even people in good health would really rather not let additional people know they had a vasectemy, eh?

        Are you kidding? I wish the doctor's office gave me a t-shirt and a tattoo to advertise that my baby batter has been replaced with "I Can't Believe It's Not Sperm".

      • by Amouth (879122) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @03:14PM (#24485917)

        well look at it this way - for more than 10 years i have had to pay my own health insurance .. 120$ a month.. not to bad but i paied it - i didn't go to the doctor i didn't go to the ER.. just spent 120$ a month for a warm fuzzy feeling.. well abouth a year ago i got sick.. i am currently on meds that cost me (after insurance) about 8$ a day - ontop of the 120$ a month i pay for insurance.. if i switch or have any laps they can say pre existing condition.. and who knows what i would be paying a month if i could even get insurance..

        for the first 9 years i had the same feeling as you - it is only after you have to switch boats you realize why you do it. If i didn't have insurance when i got sick i would not be able to afford the medication. without meds i can't move in the mornings due to the pain - with them i can be productive and work with minor pain.

        pray you don't have to - but if you ever switch boats - you will understand

      • by postbigbang (761081) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @03:38PM (#24486435)

        It's immediately possible to equate your devil's advocacy to the inability to have empathy for others.

        Your good health is nice, and it is also likely to be transient for reasons other than good actions you have taken yourself. Even if you've been a bit of a slut and got HIV (or an other STD), or let yourself become obese (with incumbent diabetes and arteriosclerosis), or have smoked like a fiend, you're still a human, and we still want you to live. Really. Those that don't, having no empathy, are in fact sociopathic and by a component of its definition.

        So, Satan, fsck off.

      • by vorpal22 (114901) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @04:43PM (#24487577) Homepage Journal

        As someone with a very painful, debilitating chronic health condition (very active Crohn's Disease), you should assist in paying for my health care because you're part of a society that has made euthanasia illegal and severely demonized suicide (indeed, were I to attempt it, I would likely be institutionalized). Hence, as society has taken away my only alternatives, it has an obligation to provide me with access to the requisite medical procedures and drugs.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by zymano (581466)

      There is no capitalism/free markets in our health care system.

      Doctors and hospitals need to be transparent about costs.

      We also need to remove the requirements for surgeons to have to go through extensive training to be doctors.

      All of these requirements add to price of service. It's a little monopoly that the med community preserves in the name of safety.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by qbzzt (11136)

      Have you considered immigration to Canada as an alternative treatment method?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bearpaw (13080)

      The US healthcare system, while not perfect, isn't the real problem. The real problem is the US health insurance system.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Alternative treatments like 'toxins cause all illnesses, including the genetic ones, and especially cancer'?. Yeah, let's all jump on that bandwagon.

      I went to my doctor today and he wrote me a prescription. I went and paid all of $14 for the medicine (that's the uninsured price). Mind you I live in Canada, so the doctor's visit was free. But honestly, when I watch those drug commercials you have in the States for sinus medication with side effects that include sinus infection and nose bleeds, and on top of

    • and you should not feed it. Let alone give four mod points to the damned thing. I don't have health insurance, because I'm 26, healthy and don't have the money for it since I'm self employed. Last month I started having heart palpitations, so I went to th ER. I had blood work done, was on an EKG and immediately saw a doctor. They charged me ~$1,000. It was the best $1,000 I ever spent. Getting professional help is worth paying for, and the US system provides it. We happen to have the best system in the worl
  • HIPPA (Score:5, Informative)

    by sm62704 (957197) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @02:36PM (#24485053) Journal

    Sell my medical records and my lawyer will be in touch with your lawyer. See Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by l33tDad (1118795)
      Exactly what I was thinking. I work in the IT department of a hospital and can tell you that I can't even look up my own lab reports or medical records without fear of disciplinary measures as technically it's a HIPAA violation! Even talk casually about a patient in a public place and it's a violation... Sell my records and I'm with the parent, have fun talking with my lawyers!
    • They're not selling your medical records, they're selling your financial transaction information (afaict), which is probably not covered under HIPAA. It's an end run. If there's one thing that humans are especially good at, it's finding loopholes in laws.

      • by HaeMaker (221642)

        They can sell the financial transaction information all they want, but if they identify what was sold and it is medically related, that's a lawsuit.

        $25 co-pay isn't going to tell them a whole lot. It's $25 for a $26 prescription and it is $25 for a $1000 prescription.

        • It is also $25 for a $10 prescription.

          That's right, if you're not paying attention or your pharmacy is a whore and doesn't tell you, you pay $25 no matter what.

          Bastards.

        • But it sounds like they're getting info from pharmacy databases. I know I have HIPAA privacy statements from my doctor's office, but I don't ever remember getting one from a pharmacist. And the grantparent-references wikipedia seems to state the HIPAA just makes them give you their privacy statement, but doesn't seem to force them to have a privacy policy that excludes sharing info.

          This just goes to show that if you or anyone in your family gets sick, you're totally screwed. McCain wants the market to help

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            And the grantparent-references wikipedia seems to state the HIPAA just makes them give you their privacy statement, but doesn't seem to force them to have a privacy policy that excludes sharing info.

            I don't know if it's standard practice everywhere, but my mom works in the radiology department of a hospital and they're explicitly forbidden to give out any information to anyone who doesn't need to know. That is, if you're getting an x-ray, the x-ray tech, the supervising doctor and the doctor who ordered it (along with necessary staff like the secretaries that handle everything) are the only ones allowed to see anything, barring something like a court order. There have been people reprimanded (with a 3

    • by Thelasko (1196535)
      RTFA!

      But HIPAA does not give the Department of Health and Human Services the ability to directly investigate or hold accountable entities, such as pharmacy benefit managers or companies such as Ingenix and Milliman, who are not covered by HIPAA

    • Re:HIPPA (Score:5, Informative)

      by uberdilligaff (988232) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @03:08PM (#24485787)
      Sadly, you'll never know when it happens, or which party in the chain of custody of your records ratted you out. And if you have any sort of insurance, the claim form you signed and submitted almost certainly authorized the insurance company to get any information they feel they need about your care "to evaluate your claim". You're screwed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You can't get out of the doctor's office without signing a HIPAA waiver so the doctor can share your health information with their partners.

      I guess assuming that this partner would be the radiologist, neurologist ... involved in my case was foolish. Plus, they obviously have to disclose to the insurance company to get paid. And the insurance company runs the database from which they sell your information. Great!

      This statement scares me even more: It's not just for insurers, either; employers who che

  • A Non-Issue. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Puls4r (724907) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @02:40PM (#24485127)
    This is a difficult discussion to have:

    Car insurance knows how many accidents you've had. Home insurance knows what claims you've made. All the insurance companies know your criminal record.

    Health records may be private - you don't particularly want your neighbors to know about it. But the company that is insuring you certainly has a right to know what type of risk they're insuring - and just like auto insurance your cost should reflect it.

    At the same time, health care is something that is a necessity. So if they price it out of range, how do you protect yourself? Removing preventive care due to cost and substituting emergency care in it's place is a horrible solution, but if it's priced out of range, that is what may happen.

    This is why the government is going to have to step into health care in some way. It's in the Health Insurance company's best interests to not insurance people that are high risk. In a free market, those people will end up being uninsured.

    I hate government intervention in any market, but I don't see any way around it. You can walk to the store and work. You can't perform an appendectomy on yourself.
    • Watch the people who can't get insurance, and yet have a life-threatening health issue, go Rambo.

      Health Care Insurance employees better watch their backs.

    • mod parent up (Score:2, Interesting)

      I'm a (usually) economically conservative person, and i agree totally with this. Government controlled health care is one of the few instances where socializing an industry is in the best interests of society as a while.
      • Agreed. The latest fad in corporate health care is for companies to ban smoking on property and remove unhealthy food from cafeterias...to save $ on health care costs. Whether those things are necessary or not should not be determined by my employer, who has my hands tied behind my back.

        Health care is already socialized, but wouldn't you rather have it run by an elected body rather than your boss? There's no expectation of fairness in a corporation, but with your government you can at least fight for it. Do

      • Re:mod parent up (Score:4, Informative)

        by non (130182) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @03:02PM (#24485649) Homepage Journal

        wrong.

        wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

        repeat after me; wrong.

        why, you wonder, are you wrong? in a system where market participants place performance, or more properly, are bound by law to place performance, above all other measures of success it is plain that the welfare of the consumer is not considered unless also mandated by law, and even then will be considered less important than the business's performance if there are not sufficiently dissuasive penalties.

        for further reference see RailTrack [wikipedia.org].

    • but but... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Reality Master 201 (578873) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @02:57PM (#24485553) Journal

      Healthcare rationing! Long waiting lists! Socialism!

      Of course, healthcare in the US is already rationed (just according to your ability to pay for it) and you already have to wait for procedures and tests (like the week and a half it took my wife to get the insurance company and various doctors involved to schedule an MRI that everyone agreed she needed).

      Insurance companies are probably the worst type of organization to have making healthcare decisions.

      • While it is popular to slag American health care, it is also vastly superior in terms of medical results across the population by a wide range of metrics. Take cancer survival rates, where the U.S. has long been the best in the world, as once again confirmed in a recent Lancet Oncology study:

        "American men have a five-year survival rate of 66 percent -- compared to only 47 percent for European men." (http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba/ba596/)

        That is no small difference -- almost 20 points! -- in medical outcomes for

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          An interesting point, but it's only a view with respect to a single aspect of medical care.

          Taking a less narrow focus, consider the overall life expectancy at birth for the US vs. other countries - you'll find that a number of European nations are ahead, including France, the UK, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, among others.

          Clearly insurance companies are accidentally doing something right, though perhaps because dead people do not pay premiums.

          I don't know that you can draw that conclusion from t

    • by schwit1 (797399)
      No doubt. Insurance companies are not charities. They answer to the stock holders. If people have medical problems due to no fault of their own then the government should pick up the slack. For those with problems due to self abuse(putting crap in your body, not exercising, trying to be the skateboard faceplant king, etc) I say you're on your own.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      You can walk to the store and work. You can't perform an appendectomy on yourself.

      Interestingly, a little searching found this:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-surgery [wikipedia.org]

      Take a look at the first bullet under the heading "Abdominal."

      So there you have it...*shudders*

      -G

    • Re:A Non-Issue. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sockatume (732728) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @03:17PM (#24485969)
      I've always found the whole US healthcare system bizarre in the context of the Emergency Services. If your house catches fire or you're mugged, then a team of government-funded professionals come to your aid, but if you get hit by a car, you've got to cut a deal with a medic on your own?
    • Re:A Non-Issue. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sm62704 (957197) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @03:18PM (#24486007) Journal

      At the same time, health care is something that is a necessity. So if they price it out of range, how do you protect yourself?

      That's why the civilized world has universal health care.

      I hate government intervention in any market

      The health care "market" is not a free market, as I found out in April after my vitrectomy (link may not be sfw) [slashdot.org]. The prescription eye drops I had to take after the surgery varied widely in price from pharmacy to pharmacy, but my co-pay was the same no matter where I boiught it. In the end I got it at the closest drug store, which turned out to be the second most expensive.

      I can only get insurance my employer provides. When the market isn't free, government SHOULD intervene.

      My best friend died from lack of insurance. RIP Jim Dawson, 1952-1992.

    • and introducing more of it into health care will only decrease the quality of what we do have.

      You can't shop across state lines because of federal regulations. Every damn state and the feds introduce must carry rules. It is because of government intervention that health care is such a mess. We spend nearly TWO trillion dollars if all levels of government are represented and what are we getting for it? Oh, that's right, somehow its private corporations that are at fault for so many uninsured. Yet when s

      • How are uninsurable people suppose to obtain healthcare? And not just emergency or major surgery healthcare, but preventative healthcare?

        If you don't want government involvement, then health insurance must be non-discriminatory, or else there will be no choice but to have public-funded programs to treat those who cannot afford private insurance. Or they can just get sick and die, I guess. Hey, as long as your ass is covered, right?

    • Re:A Non-Issue. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Jewfro_Macabbi (1000217) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @03:32PM (#24486343) Homepage
      There are many problems with a free market health care system. It's a supply and demand type system - which should never be used for non-optional/substitutable goods and services. Can you lower your demand for health care? Consumers have no recourse. It's not like you can say, "Well that's a little high for heart surgery, I think I'll shop around first". or "I suppose I don't really need those antibiotics this week".

      I'm one of the uninsured, and preexisting conditions ensure I'm insurable. It's not possible to pay for your health care (unless you're a multi-millionaire). Here's what that means literally: I've been left for dead. I'm not alone either. There are millions of Americans suffering illness who cannot pay for care, and cannot get insurance. They are left in limbo until they either die, or become sick enough to qualify for disability benefits (in the governments eyes - they've denied people I know in quarantine... )

      At that point all you dear readers get to pay my medical bills anyway. Only now they are my inflated medical bills. Prevention is far cheaper than disease management. If you need an example - Had I received something like treatment over the last ten years I may not have neuropathy on top of my primary diagnosis. Now I do. Now the cost of treatment rises exponentially.

      They do not care how much costs rise. We are the ones paying.
  • The interesting side of this is that people who stay in good shape and are generally ahead of the curve may see some benefits in the premiums they pay. Sloth (the sin, not the hero of goonies) will be actually financially penalized.

    All sorts of horrible implications to this, diseases people cant control, genetic manipulation of kids seems much more practical and desirable as a finnacial benefit to avoid fees now too. Great moral implications and debates on this one.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mrchaotica (681592) *

      The interesting side of this is that people who stay in good shape and are generally ahead of the curve may see some benefits in the premiums they pay.

      No they won't. The best anyone can hope for, barring radical policy change on the part of the U.S. government, is that their costs won't go up too much for them to afford.

      Good health? Costs go up. Bad health? Costs go up more.

  • .. why would an employer need to know what your credit score is?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nurb432 (527695)

      If you have a bad credit rating, you aren't good at handling your personal finances, so why would you be any better handling your duties at work?

      ( not that i agree, but that is the thinking, and why they ask )

      • by jgarra23 (1109651)

        If you have a bad credit rating, you aren't good at handling your personal finances, so why would you be any better handling your duties at work? ( not that i agree, but that is the thinking, and why they ask )

        That certainly is their misguided thinking, isn't it? All the doctors I know, they are terrible at maintaining their health. I know accountants who are terrible at managing their money. Lots of developers have the worst-organized environment I've seen in their home.

        People in all the groups above OTOH

  • Great (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jayhawk88 (160512) <jayhawk88@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @02:48PM (#24485303)

    And I'm busting my ass encrypting laptops for HIPAA compliance so stupid med students don't lose an anonymous list of patient encounter notes.

  • Just a week ago BusinessWeek had a piece about health care insurance companies buying your prescription drug history onto which they base your insurance premium.

    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_31/b4094000643943.htm [businessweek.com]

    Health care probably needs more an element of solidarity. Insurance is a business and as such it is legitimate for them to aspire for higher profits. Cynically, it is also legitimate for an insurance company to deny services to higher risk individuals. It is legitimate for a busine

  • Another reason to despise insurance companies. I don't know what would be more disappointing finding out my daughter was a stripper or that she works for an insurance company. Either way, she's probably screwin' way too many people!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by X0563511 (793323)

      Strippers don't usually screw random people, so I would say the stripper is MUCH more innocent than Big Bubba Insurance, Inc.

  • by DustyCase (619304)

    This is just another way in which the insurance industry works to defeat access to preventative medicine. You want the screening for early detection, but it might lead to you losing your insurance, or getting dropped from an employer plan and having to go it alone.

    The insurance industry knows three things: Sick people cost money Healthy people cost less money Dead people cost even less money

    Guess which they want the most of? The faster you move from sick to dead, the better their bottom line looks.

  • Every bit of data out there is for sale at this point. Its rather disgusting.

  • by Quadraginta (902985) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @02:53PM (#24485415)

    I don't know why anyone would be surprised that an organization the goal of which is to maximize profits would do its best to cut costs (paying for your medical care) and maximize income (acquiring the money of you, your employer and the government i.e. other taxpayers as health-care premiums). You'd have to fail Logic 101 to think things would be otherwise.

    On the other hand, what the Washington Post will suggest is the "solution" to this nonsense is even more illogical: you should give all your health-care money to another organization, Congress, which is also most interested in something other than your health -- namely, keeping political power. What do you suppose will influence Congressmen when they decide what to do with your health-care money, and how to provide you with health-care? Altruism? Your actual happiness? Using your money most efficiently? Hmmm. Is that how it works now, when Congress debates how copyright should work in the Digital Age, or whether it makes sense to subsidize turning corn into ethanol (instead of food)?

    Once again, we're confronted with the nasty little fact o' life that the only agent that will ever have only your interests at heart is you. Given that, which of these three options makes sense?

    (A) Give your money to a big insurance company, run by strangers with Harvard MBAs seeking to maximize profits for shareholders, then ask for some of it back when you want some health care.

    (B) Give your money to Congress, run by smooth-talking lawyers seeking to maximize their terms in office through maintaining access to the massive amounts of cash necessary for perennial re-election, then ask for some of it back when you want some health care.

    (C) Keep your money, and spend it on health care when and where you choose.

    Strangely enough, people keep choosing (A) and (B), under the amazing delusion that somehow if you make all the transactions really complicated -- shuffle the dollar bills around fast enough -- we can receive more value in health care than we pay out in actual money. Proof that the bitter lesson of TANSTAAFL has not been learned by most adults.

  • by unity100 (970058) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @03:09PM (#24485801) Homepage Journal
    for a national health care. they are SO predatory, SO villainous, SO phony that they make worst nationalized health care system look like out of heaven.
  • by philspear (1142299) on Tuesday August 05, 2008 @03:22PM (#24486099)

    The system can save money for insurers... For instance, if MedPoint produces a report that an individual has been on the highest dose of the cholesterol-reducing drug Zocor for 18 monts, the insurer "would be able to know that you have a very high, near-intractable cholesterol problem," Dick said, and could avoid a costly blood test.

    Sounds reasonable at first, but think for a minute: why would your doctor order a blood test to see if you have cholesterol problems if he or she had already put you on cholesterol medication because he or she knew you had cholesterol problems? Even if you switched doctors, your new doctor should know the results of that test, and at the very least you need to tell him you're on the medication. In other words: your doctor is going to know already.

    At best this is a flimsy excuse to invade your privacy and raise your insurance premiums: "By reducing wasteful testing your doctor orders because he/she is an idiot, we save you money, so don't worry about invasions of privacy or your rates going up

    But there's another issue that this seems to raise: accountants at your HMO second guessing your doctors. Lets say in the example above your doctor wants to test your cholesterol to see how effective it is or if you actually should still be taking it. Your HMO says "Hey, no, we're not paying for that, we know he has high cholesterol because he's on cholesterol medication, we don't need a test!"

    It seems like this could be sorted out with common sense, and like the insurance agencies would have some idea of what's reasonable and what's wasteful, but they don't always. The article mentions that often medications that can be perscribed for two or more different purposes, and the insurance agencies often have a hard time understanding something that simple, denying the woman life insurance because they were convinced she was depressed, when she was actually taking prozac for hot flashes.

    If they don't belive the doctor that she was postmenopausal instead of depressed, can we really expect them to use information NOT coming from the doctor correctly, in our best interests?

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