Insurance haters, let's get the job done!

I hate insurance companies. Seriously, I really do, and I always have. There's just something about the idea of paying for something you might never need (and don't want to use at all) which makes me instinctively recoil. Then on top of that, what really rankles me is that when you do need to make a claim, they make you feel like you've either been a bad little boy or some kind of whining neurotic, and then, only if you continue to cry and whine, they'll finally deign to "let" you submit a claim! At that point the real fun begins. A simple fenderbender or a visit to the doctor for a procedure ends up turning into a time-consuming ordeal that makes you gnash your teeth at the Sheer Effrontery Of It All. (And the labyrinthine medical "bills" with constantly changing numbers which are spit out automatically and then sent out in haphazard order so that you never know who to pay or how much -- and if you call in confusion they tell you to "just ignore it" -- would truly challenge the analytical skills of even the best CPAs.)

So, trust me when I say I hate the insurance companies. I know I'm not alone. Insurance companies are probably as hated as Big Oil. Or even Congress.

It's probably fair to point out that I was once in the business of hassling insurance companies. I did personal injury law for the first few years out of law school and I worked for the King of Torts, Melvin Belli. I remember one time when he unfavorably compared insurance company executives to Adolf Hitler, and I got quite a kick out of it. No question about it, they were "the enemy." Yet they were also the enemy that paid the bills. One of the ironies of life is that were it not for the insurance companies against which they do battle, the trial lawyers would not be as rich as they are, and they might have to start working for a living and getting dirt under their fingernails.

The last point raises the question of whether the trial lawyers might deserve to live under the socialism they advocate -- a topic beyond this post. (Yes, I think they deserve it. But do the rest of us?)

Now, I have nothing against people being compensated for their injuries, and it used to irritate me to no end the way insurance companies (especially their lawyers) would drag out legitimate cases, apparently to save money. However, it was more complicated than merely "saving money," for many of the insurance company lawyers were driven by career advancement as well as the inevitable ego gratification that comes from, um, "winning." (Here language fails me, because stalling and underpaying a legitimate claim isn't winning; it can result in later, drawn-out litigation for "insurance bad faith" -- something the young go-getter career-advancers often failed to anticipate.)

So, in addition to hating the insurance companies, I came to hate the young insurance defense lawyers. Because, well, they sucked!

But my hate didn't stop there. Eventually, it became clear to me that "my" side in fact sucked too. Many a former Marxist (myself included in my more irrational moments) came to see the tort law system as a way to rationalize their now-corrupted socialist principles.

"I'm actually working to redistribute wealth!"

That statement (and many like it) I heard so many times that it was really a sort of mantra. It was as if they (and I) were now "working within the system" to achieve a practical sort of socialism.

And what a corrupt, dishonest form of socialism it was! What kind of "socialist" takes 33-40% of all the money he "redistributes"? And what kind of "deserving poor" were these clients -- many of whom were not poor at all -- who became obsessed with what amounted to winning the lottery?

And whose money was being redistributed? Who were the rich fat cats? Robber barons or railroad tycoons? Hardly. Love them or hate them, insurance companies take money in and pay money out, and they're always worried about the bottom line, because all it takes is another good jolt on the San Andreas fault -- or another Hurricane Katrina -- and but for the "reinsurance" industry, they can be wiped out just as surely as any other industry.

It took me several years to realize that on an emotional level, the trial lawyer class saw the insurance industry in much the same way that college kids see parents. As a source of money that does not really have to be earned, because it's there for the asking. This is not rational, and I began to worry that the trial lawyer class consisted of people who really weren't thinking in an adult manner. Well, when you're getting a steady stream of unearned money (and a one-third contingency fee, when tens of thousands in settlement money can be generated by a single phone call, is unearned in my view), that has a way of arresting the development of your emotional and rational maturity.

What does not go away, though (and what is exacerbated by this unjust self-enrichment), is a feeling guilt -- and that sort of guilt is what funds the Democratic Party. I don't think it's an accident that the Democratic Party is heavily funded by the trial lawyer class, and often opposed by the insurance class.

OK, sorry for the lengthy diatribe about what I hate and why I hate it. It's intended as background for what I want to say about Hillary Clinton's attitude. She's acting like the countless trial lawyers I knew who weaned themselves from their parents' money in college only to attach themselves to a steady stream of milk from the insurance company tit and imagined their failure to grow up constituted "socialism." Moreover, she's blatantly pandering to them -- and to all who love to hate Big Insurance:

Earlier this week, campaigning in New Hampshire, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton asserted that health insurance companies spend $50 billion to avoid paying claims. "This is all part of their business model," she was quoted as saying. "This is how they make money, but it's so bad for the rest of us. I say to them, use the $50 billion to actually take care of people."

Statements like these raise real questions about Sen. Clinton's grasp of the facts.

That depends on what facts you're talking about, doesn't it? Hillary is a political animal, and to her, the most important fact is that she's heavily funded by trial lawyers, and she's pandering to people who hate the insurance companies.

Well, much as I hate the insurance companies, (a fact I fully admit), there are much worse things. Socialized medicine would be far, far worse. Worse for the country, worse for the individual, but better for Hillary and her faux socialist supporters who imagine themselves to be Robin Hoods while robbing the insurance industry and enriching themselves out of their clients' lottery winnings.

This is all very ugly, and very dishonest. In my view, the author of the WSJ Op Ed (Merrill Matthews) is expressing a simple truth when he calls Hillary's plan "part of a broader effort by the left to disparage the private-sector health insurance industry as wasteful and inefficient, meanwhile claiming that there would be great savings if the government covered more people." As Matthews explains, this mindless redistributionist clamor simply ignores the facts:

The health insurance industry does indeed monitor claims as they come in -- and pays the vast majority without hesitation. There is a cost to that monitoring. But there is also a cost to not monitoring those claims, and it is significantly higher.

Currently, the private sector health insurance industry spends about $600 billion a year paying traditional health care claims for those under age 65. According to a major actuarial firm, the industry spends roughly $30 billion a year adjudicating those claims -- not "denying" them, but evaluating and processing them. There doesn't seem to be a solid number for the amount of claims actually denied, but several health actuaries estimate that amount to be around $3 billion.

Regardless of Mrs. Clinton's insinuations, however, the money spent evaluating claims is not wasted, and would not be better spent "taking care of people."

Duplicate claims, for example, are often filed. Then, too, people may file a claim for a gym membership in order to lose weight, or for over-the-counter vitamins and other drugs. While these services and products may be helpful, they aren't necessarily covered by one's health-care policy. Should insurers just pay them anyway?

Insurance is a pass-through business; insurers have to collect enough in premiums to pay claims. If they pay additional and unnecessary claims, premiums will go up -- and Mrs. Clinton would be complaining, even more than she already is, about the high cost of health insurance.

Then there's fraud....

Read the whole thing. It's very easy to hate the insurance industry. It's also childish. And so is the mob appeal driving Hillary's message of soak it to them -- as if the insurance industry is like the government is like mommy and daddy.

Hillary is old enough to know better, and so are most of her supporters. Her 1993 Health Care Plan from Hell would have socialized the entire industry and made it a crime to select and pay for your own doctor. She's trying to repackage it for now, but what she's trying to fix is not as broken as it will be if she gets her way. The socialists would like health care to be rationed the way it is in England and Canada.

I think the proof of Hillary's ultimate intentions is found in the fact that when she's on comfortable turf, she still brags about her 1993 plan.

In the YouTube video which follows, Hillary is addressing the Kos Convention on 08.04.07. If you can get past her praise of the left wing bloggers for "helping us create a modern and progressive movement" to stand up against the "right wing noise machine" and "present an alternative with facts" in support of the "progessive agenda of the Democratic Party," and if you can stand watching her brag about how she "helped start Media Matters and the Center for American Progress," how she wishes we'd had the blogosphere ten years ago (I do too, but for very different reasons!), you'll get to her claim (around 6:00) that with her 93-94 health care plan she was "trying to do something which was worth doing which we will get done when I am President."

This utterance drew the loudest applause during the speech, and while I don't think Hillary always means what she says, I think in the case of socializing health care, she's a true believer. For no other reason than that, she deserves to be defeated.

I still hate the insurance companies, mind you.

But I don't hate them enough to replace them with something I hate more.

posted by Eric on 12.01.07 at 11:03 AM










Comments

"There's just something about the idea of paying for something you might never need which rankles me in the first place..."
But you're using your insurance all the time! You're using it to convert risk into managable payments. (Supposing your insurance company actually pays out in the future, anyways.)
asdf   ·  December 1, 2007 11:25 AM

Eric,

People in this country fail to think through the concept of 'free', as applied to health care, welfare, education, or any other 'free' benefit supplied by government.

The universal truth about 'free' is that someone or something else always determines what exactly it is that is provided 'free'.

Only when one pays one's own way is it possible to compare and choose intelligently what level of service is appropriate.

I would much rather pay for my children's educational, health and housing needs, as determined by my wife and me, with a combination of direct and insurance payments, than allow Senator Clinton or President Bush to take this money from me in the various forms of taxation they recommend, and then used to provide for my needs as determined by them.

I can't understand why this concept is so difficult to grasp.

dr kill   ·  December 1, 2007 12:45 PM

Eric,

People in this country fail to think through the concept of 'free', as applied to health care, welfare, education, or any other 'free' benefit supplied by government.

The universal truth about 'free' is that someone or something else always determines what exactly it is that is provided 'free'.

Only when one pays one's own way is it possible to compare and choose intelligently what level of service is appropriate.

I would much rather pay for my children's educational, health and housing needs, as determined by my wife and me, with a combination of direct and insurance payments, than allow Senator Clinton or President Bush to take this money from me in the various forms of taxation they recommend, and then used to provide for my needs as determined by them.

I can't understand why this concept is so difficult to grasp.

dr kill   ·  December 1, 2007 12:49 PM

Loser pays. And the loser's lawyers pay one third.

Brett   ·  December 1, 2007 12:52 PM

Further:

Those who say government control is more efficient than the market are confusing efficacy with efficiency.

Brett   ·  December 1, 2007 12:55 PM

People who oppose Hillary's health insurance plan or any of the other plans for universal health insurance should drop this silly argument that this won't really be "free" money. No one imagines that government paid or mandated health insurance is going to be free. Everyone knows that money from Social Security and Medicare isn't free money, that every dollar they pay out comes from taxpayers. Saying that universal health insurance won't be free is an absurd argument that makes you look ridiculous.

Chocolatier   ·  December 1, 2007 2:01 PM

The question for people who understand these things is not whether it's free, but who pays.

But I think the slogan "FREE HEALTH CARE" implies that health care can be made free, and I think that there are plenty of stupid or ignorant people who imagine that as long as they don't have to pay for something, it is free.

I have no problem with an emergency safety net, but I think that forcing people to pay for other people's non-emergency health care insurance is tyrannical. As it is right now, I have only catastrophic coverage. Why should I be forced to pay for other people to have what I don't even pay for?

Eric Scheie   ·  December 1, 2007 3:16 PM

I am sure that there are many gullible people who think that universal health insurance could and would be truly "free". Those people are called "shnooks" in Yiddish. But I am pretty sure that they are in the minority. (Of course that doesn't apply to Berkeley. The people who run city hall here do think that government money really is free.) However, most people know that this will cost them. As for an "emergency safety net", we already have that. Its known as the county hospital emergency room.

Chocolatier   ·  December 1, 2007 5:40 PM

And what a corrupt, dishonest form of socialism it was! What kind of "socialist" takes 33-40% of all the money he "redistributes"?

A typical one.

billy   ·  December 1, 2007 9:17 PM

When it comes to young, ego bloated fools letting their testosterone overcome what feeble good sense they might have, we need to enact the Mike Havel Doctrine.

The Mike Havel Doctrine is named after the character of Mike Havel in S. M. Stirling's Dies the Fire. It is inspired by a scene soon after The Change in which Mike (originally hired to fly a client and his family to Idaho) beats the crap out of his client's 18 year old son. In the doing proving conclusively that while he, Mike, did not bring the boy into the world, he can most certainly take him out. So reminded of his place in the scheme of things, the boy concludes that minding his Ps & Qs is a good idea.

The Mike Havel Doctrine would call upon adults to give ego addled youth a good thrashin' whenever they get above themselves and start behaving in any manner intended to degrade, belittle, or even dis another human being. The same for any fool who enables such behavior in a young person. Though a well timed admonition to stop being such an ass would be allowed if such admonition proved effective.

Spare the bruisin and spoil the twerp.

Alan Kellogg   ·  December 2, 2007 6:59 AM

What kind of "socialist" takes 33-40% of all the money he "redistributes"?

A piker. Remember Reagan's complaint that the welfare bureaucracy soaked up 87% of the money allocated to the poor and indigent.

M

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