Wondering which circle Dante would assign for this

I try not to overuse the word "evil." It's a strong, morally-uncompromising statement to make to call something truly evil, as opposed to "misguided" or "wrong." But I'm having a hard time coming up with any other way of describing this (via the LA Times, h/t Political Animal):
Executives of three of the nation's largest health insurers told federal lawmakers in Washington on Tuesday that they would continue canceling medical coverage for some sick policyholders, despite withering criticism from Republican and Democratic members of Congress who decried the practice as unfair and abusive.

The hearing on the controversial action known as rescission, which has left thousands of Americans burdened with costly medical bills despite paying insurance premiums, began a day after President Obama outlined his proposals for revamping the nation's healthcare system.
That's right, America! You can pay your premiums right on time, and still lose your coverage if you are unlucky enough to get too sick (read: costly) for your insurance company to tolerate.
An investigation by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations showed that health insurers WellPoint Inc., UnitedHealth Group and Assurant Inc. canceled the coverage of more than 20,000 people, allowing the companies to avoid paying more than $300 million in medical claims over a five-year period.

It also found that policyholders with breast cancer, lymphoma and more than 1,000 other conditions were targeted for rescission and that employees were praised in performance reviews for terminating the policies of customers with expensive illnesses.
This simply leaves me speechless. Rescission is meant to weed out fraud, but it seems clear that it was being used to cut people (sick people... people who were most in need of the insurance coverage) when they became a threat to the bottom line. The placid way the executives seem to view the practice is nauseating.
[T]hey would not commit to limiting rescissions to only policyholders who intentionally lie or commit fraud to obtain coverage, a refusal that met with dismay from legislators on both sides of the political aisle.


[Brian Sassi, president of consumer business for WellPoint Inc.] said rescissions are necessary to prevent people who lie about preexisting conditions from obtaining coverage and driving up costs for others.

"I want to emphasize that rescission is about stopping fraud and material misrepresentations that contribute to spiraling healthcare costs," Sassi told the committee.


Late in the hearing, Stupak, the committee chairman, put the executives on the spot. Stupak asked each of them whether he would at least commit his company to immediately stop rescissions except where they could show "intentional fraud."

The answer from all three executives:

So the practice is about stopping fraud, but they won't commit to limiting it to cases of fraud? You almost have to admire how brazenly indifferent they are to human suffering. It's rare to see sociopathology so clearly displayed.

As Rep. John Dingell of Michican put it, "This is precisely why we need a public option." Just so. The private insurance industry is interested in making money, and that's it. So long as there is no disinterested entity designed to put the actual care of patients above the profit motive, the insurance industry will put its bottom line over the welfare of its customers.

It may be evil, but it's business as usual.

1 comment:

  1. This is why we need a public option, and why the insurance companies will fight like hell to stop it.