Posts tagged ‘YES’

Well, My Health Insurance Policy Just Became Illegal

My health insurance policy, which is an actual "insurance" policy that insures me against catastrophic medical costs but leaves me with responsibility for day to day expenses, just became illegal.   Over the last couple of years, I have documented my learning curve as, for the first time, I actually had an incentive to shop around for medical care, or to push back on doctors when I thought they are calling for too many tests and procedures.  I have learned a lot about saving money, but all of this education is now for naught, as I will now be required to buy a pre-paid medical policy that leaves very little of the decision-making to my family and provides zero incentives for me to be cost conscious.  Apparently, the operators of the US Postal Service and US military procurement felt they were better qualified to manage these cost/value trade-offs than I am.

Here, by the way, is my favorite quote from today, from Nancy Pelosi (who else):

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised the health care legislation for its ability to "unleash tremendous entrepreneurial power into our economy."

Only if one considers rent-seeking to be entrepreneurship.  There will certainly be a mad rush of special interests to Congress to get their pet procedure or drug included in national must-cover rules.  I discussed this rent-seeking process, which used to have to proceed inefficiently state by state but now can be achieved single-source, here.   Naturopath coverage, anyone? (already required under coverage rules in 4 states).   Already a lot of so-called medical research is really just thinly disguised pleas to have a certain procedure in must-cover rules.  For example, I wrote about one study:

In other words, the study surveyed a bunch of cosmetic surgeons.  They were asked "should an expensive procedure you provide be covered by insurance."  They all answered "Hell YES!"  Anyone want to bet whether the funding for the study came from the company that makes the laser equipment?

Health Insurance Mandates

One of the reasons for substantial variation in the cost of health insurance between the states is the variations in state "must-cover" health insurance mandates.  New York and Massachusetts, both known to have among the most extensive requirements, not coincidentally have the highest average premium costs.

I found this study the other day - it was put together by a health insurance group and is certainly self-serving;  but since it is just a summary of existing law, I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be mostly accurate.

Here is one example table from the report -- it is the type of specialist care that must be covered in each state.  They also have much longer tables on the individual procedures that must be covered:

procedures2

Gotta make sure that "naturopaths" are covered, don't we?  You can picture the process of specialists marching into state capitals and making their pitch that their profession needs to be covered.

You can get a feeling for what goes on with one example.  One procedure, "Port Wine Stain Elimination," caught my eye.  I assumed this was removal of some type of birthmark, but I was curious and looked it up.  I got this study near the top of the Google search, and in this link you can see the political process of mandates in a nutshell.  Here is the abstract (emphasis added)

background. Port-wine stains are congenital vascular malformations that can be disfiguring and may lead to psychosocial as well as medical complications. The 585-nm pulsed dye laser is very effective in treating port-wine stains. Laser treatment is often viewed by insurance companies as a "cosmetic procedure" and not "medically necessary." Consequently many patients are denied coverage for treatment of their disfiguring birthmarks.

objective. To determine variability of insurance coverage for laser treatment of port-wine stains from state to state. Natural history, progression, and potential complications of port-wine stains arc reviewed and rationale for consistent insurance coverage for laser treatment of port-wine stains is given.

methods. A questionnaire was mailed to 40 dermatologic surgeons in 22 states and the District of Columbia. We reviewed the literature regarding port-wine stains and their potential complications, and health care policy guidelines regarding "medical necessity" and "cosmetic procedures."

results. Insurance coverage for laser treatment of port-wine stains varies from state to state.

conclusion. Based on current health care policy guidelines, laser treatment of port-wine stains should be regarded, and covered, as a medical necessity by all insurance providers.

In other words, the study surveyed a bunch of cosmetic surgeons.  They were asked "should an expensive procedure you provide be covered by insurance."  They all answered "Hell YES!"  Anyone want to bet whether the funding for the study came from the company that makes the laser equipment?

But today, they now have to run to 50 state houses (well, 48 since they have been successful in 2).  In the future, they will just run to Congress.  And we know how good Congress is at saying no to special interests.

Postscript: I would normally assume this is obvious, but after years of blogging I know that I must add that I have nothing against those with port wine stains, I am thrilled that a technology exists today to remove them, but I don't want to pay for it in my policy.

Postscript #2: I am willing to bet that the Venn diagram of the 4 states offering "naturopath" coverage and the 3 states offering "Pastoral Counselors" don't overlap.

Postscript #3: What does a naturopath (whose tools include homeopathy) charge an insurance company for a remedy consisting of at most one molecule of active ingredient in a glass of pure but well shaken water?  Speaking of homeopathy, this is classically funny.

AZ and Small Government

One of the good things about living in AZ is that it is the home of several of the unfortunately dwindling number of Republicans who consistently cast votes for lower taxes and smaller government. 

Recently Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake, who I have given props to in a number of columns on this blog, sponsored a series of 19 bills aimed at cleaning up the appropriations process and making it harder for Congress to slip earmarks through the appropriations process, at least without having gone explicitly on the record as having done so. 

The Club for Growth has a scorecard of how each Congressman voted on these bills.  In each case, a 'YES' vote is a vote against pork and a vote to clean up the Congressional appropriations process. 

My Congressman, John Shadegg, who is another reliable small government low tax voter, came through with 19 of 19 'Yes' votes.  Way to go Congressman!