Submit a link Features Reviews Podcasts Video Forums More ▾

Why health insurance makes no sense

Two doctors have written a really fascinating analysis of the history and economics of health insurance that will make our current U.S. system seem even more ridonculous than it already did. Maggie

American insurers charge reckless rich drivers less than safe poor drivers

The Consumer Federation of America did a mystery shopper review of several auto insurers and found that drivers with at-fault accidents paid lower premiums than drivers with spotless records -- provided that the careless driver was rich and well-educated and the careful driver was a single renter without an advanced degree.

Using two hypothetical characters the group compared premiums offered to two 30-year-old women. Both had driven for 10 years, lived on the same street in a middle-income Zip code and both wanted the minimum insurance required by whichever state the group was researching.

The imaginary woman who wasn’t married, rented a home, didn’t have coverage for 45 days but has never been in an accident or ticketed with a moving violation was compared to a married executive with a master’s degree who owns her home and has always had continuous insurance coverage. But she’d been in an accident (again, hypothetically) that was her fault and caused $800 in damage within the last three years.

The results were somewhat surprising, although there were differences across the five insurers. Farmers, GEICO and Progressive always gave a higher quote to the safer driver than the woman who’d caused an accident. Across all 12 cities in the study, State Farm offered the lowest or second lowest premiums.

“State insurance regulators should require auto insurers to explain why they believe factors such as education and income are better predictors of losses than are at-fault accidents,” said J. Robert Hunter, CFA’s director of insurance and former Texas insurance

Consumer Group: The Rich May Pay Less For Car Insurance Even If They’re Not Safe Drivers [Consumerist/Mary Beth Quirk]

LARGEST AUTO INSURERS FREQUENTLY CHARGE HIGHER PREMIUMS TO SAFE DRIVERS THAN TO THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR ACCIDENTS (PDF) [Consumer Federation of America]

#InsurancePoll: Amanda Palmer wants to know about your experience with health insurance

Amanda Palmer was musing about the messed up state of US health insuranceso she took to Twitter, writing about it under the #InsurancePoll tag ("quick twitter poll. 1) COUNTRY?! 2) profession? 3) insured? 4) if not, why not, if so, at what cost per month (or covered by job)?"). The tag's blown up, trending across the USA, as people weigh in with their insurance horror stories. Then a volunteer statistician came forward to compile a report on the data generated by the poll. They're looking for lots more people to step forward and participate.

i’ll post the gathered data as soon as it’s ready. the results, as DM’d to me a few hours ago by @aubreyjaubrey:

– preliminary info from first 156 responses indicates 24.5% of US respondents do not have insurance because of cost.

– 31.4% of responses were from outside of US. all but one person had some kind of compulsory of government supported healthcare – (that one person was denied)

– 24.4% of those abroad have some employer/private insurance for optometry and dental. individual costs from $45-$90/month. around $250/mo for a family.

– based on responses, Germany appears to be the only other country with extortionate health care costs.

a few hours ago aubrey posted she was off to bed but would continue today and that so far, 240 sets of data had been entered. nice.

runaway twitter insurance poll & the power of social media & sharing stories

On Romney, health care in America, and dying in your apartment

Recently, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney told members of the Columbus Dispatch editorial board, "We don't have people that become ill, who die in their apartment because they don't have insurance. We don't have a setting across this country where if you don't have insurance, we just say to you, 'Tough luck, you're going to die when you have your heart attack.' No, you go to the hospital, you get treated, and it's paid for, either by charity, the government or by the hospital."

Many of us who have cancer laughed and shook our heads. Yes, people in America do die because of lack of health insurance, and because having health insurance is not a guarantee that you will receive affordable care.

In an opinion piece over at HuffPo, Wendell Potter, former insurance industry PR guy turned whistleblower and author, writes:

Romney is absolutely right, people who are uninsured don't have to die in their apartments. They can indeed be rushed to a hospital, and the hospital is obligated to treat them. It's what he didn't say, and likely doesn't understand because he simply can't relate to 47 percent of us, that is actually more important: many of the uninsured die in the hospital, in the emergency room, because they could not afford to get care earlier when it might have saved their lives. Instead of going back home to their apartments, many of them, unfortunately, go to the morgue.

More: Romney's Talking Points on the Uninsured Are Like the Ones I Wrote When I Was an Insurance Industry Flack.

Potter's book looks pretty great. I just ordered a copy. (thanks, Lani)

Matt Fisher: Progressive Insurance is lying, they did too defend my sister's killer

Yesterday, Mark posted Progressive Insurance's denial that it had represented the driver who killed one of its policy holders, in an effort to getting out of paying a claim. Now, Matt Fisher, the brother of the dead woman, has posted a scathing rebuttal, which begins by noting:

At the beginning of the trial on Monday, August 6th, an attorney identified himself as Jeffrey R. Moffat and stated that he worked for Progressive Advanced Insurance Company. He then sat next to the defendant. During the trial, both in and out of the courtroom, he conferred with the defendant. He gave an opening statement to the jury, in which he proposed the idea that the defendant should not be found negligent in the case. He cross-examined the plaintiff’s witnesses. On direct examination, he questioned all of the defense’s witnesses. He made objections on behalf of the defendant, and he was a party to the argument of all of the objections heard in the case. After all of the witnesses had been called, he stood before the jury and gave a closing argument, in which he argued that my sister was responsible for the accident that killed her, and that the jury should not decide that the defendant was negligent.

PREMIUM FISHER | Today, in response to my blog post... (via Wil Wheaton)

"How I lost my fear of Universal Health Care"

Worth a read: American blogger A Young Mom, who believed state-funded abortion was "a horrible thing," writes about how she changed her mind about Universal Health Care after realizing that affordable access to health care is associated with a lower abortion rate in Canada. She moved to Canada, and her opinions changed when she observed a single-payer system functioning in real life, not in rhetoric. (via @robertlavigne) Xeni

Publicly funded birth control saves public money

A public investment of $235 million in helping the poorest women in America access birth control would save the public $1.32 billion, according to the Brookings Institution. Maggie

What it's like to be uninsured

When I was in second grade, I got health insurance for the first time. I remember my parents—with looks on their faces somewhere between proud and relieved—telling me that it was now totally okay to fall out of a tree and break my arm. Frankly, that didn't sound like much fun, so I never took my parents up on the offer.

It's only years later, as an adult, that I really understand the significance of that event. I honestly have no idea how my parents paid for the regular preventative check-up appointments I remember going to. I have no idea how they paid for the time I smashed my finger between the hinges of a door and ended up in the hospital. The fact that those things happened, at a time when we had very, very little money and no insurance, gives me a little bit of a retroactive sense of budget vertigo. Did my parents lose sleep over this stuff? In all likelihood, yes. It's a wonder I was allowed to climb trees at all.

Since I was a kid, the costs of healthcare—and the cost of insurance—have increased dramatically. And that's widened the gap that people fall into, when they make too much for Medicaid, but can't afford insurance. When I was uninsured, my mother was a home daycare provider and my father was a bartender. Today, it's perfectly possible to have a Ph.D., have a decently paying professional job, and still have to make some terrifying budgetary decisions that leave you and your children without health insurance.

Read the rest

Parents who won't vaccinate their kids should pay higher insurance premiums

Writing on CNN, pediatrician Rahul K. Parikh suggests that parents who allow the irresponsible lies of publicity-mongers like Jenny McCarthy to scare them into not vaccinating their kids should have to pay higher insurance premiums.

I think this sounds like a good start, but I'd go further: I think that kids should have to show a certificate of vaccination to use public schools -- because vaccinations don't confer resistance on all people, we have to rely on "herd immunity" (that is, a preponderance of people taking vaccination) to keep all of us safe. Here in Hackney, London, we've got live measles, whooping cough and other terrible, preventable childhood diseases in the field, thanks to this kind of fearmongering. For those of us with kids who are too young to be vaccinated, it means that other parents' uninformed fear create a health risk for our families.

Refusing to vaccinate a child is dangerous not just for that child but for entire communities. It's precisely this point a colleague of mine was considering when he had the idea that parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids should pay substantially higher health insurance premiums.

It makes sense. Insurance, after all, is just a pool of money into which we all pay. In determining how much we or our employers pay, risk is taken into account.

The perfect analogy is smoking. If you smoke -- and want to turn your lungs black and spend a greater portion of that pot of money on your possible chronic lung disease or any cancers you'll get -- then you may have to pay more.

Make anti-vaccine parents pay higher premiums (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

(Image: Measles and Scarlet Fever, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from perpetualplum's photostream)

Insure-and-Go: we're there for you until you need us

How's this for a ripoff? We've got travel insurance from Insure-and-Go, which covers (among other things), flight cancellations due to strikes. Last summer, we bought plane tickets from the UK to the US for Christmas holidays. Some time in October, BA's union threatened a strike. On Oct 26, we renewed our Insure-and-Go policy. Now they're saying that if BA goes on strike this Christmas, they won't cover us -- they say that because "we knew there was a possibility of a strike" on Oct 26, we have no strike insurance (even though we were insured by them when we bought the tickets, and even though we renewed our policy on time).