Tag Archives: health insurance

Bribes from Big Insurance

I had to comment on this.  The scanned in document below comes from a post that I saw from a friend of a friend on Facebook.  To me it illustrates everything that is wrong with the way health care is implemented in this country.  Take a look at the picture below and read it carefully.  I can’t believe this is even legal.

This letter comes from United Healthcare, which is a major U.S. health insurance company.  They are “encouraging” people to get their children vaccinated by bribing them with $20 gift cards, one of which is to McDonald’s!

In one breath they are asking you to do something they say is healthy for your child which is get vaccinated.  Whether vaccines are healthy or even safe is a topic for another blog but let’s forget that point and take the view of the health insurance company.

United Healthcare actually believe vaccines are a good thing.  They believe it so much that they are offering $20 to their clients whose children are not up to date on their vaccines.  One of their offers includes $20 to McDonald’s!  This company is supposed to be getting people healthier, not encouraging behavior that will make you exceptionally unhealthy!

More and more, people are exercising their right not to vaccinate their children.  This blog is not about whether that is right or wrong but suffice it to say, I support parents who make that decision if they feel it is right for them.

This type of letter, sent to thousands of parents, is a way for Big Insurance and Big Pharma to get people to use their products and services more frequently to make more money.  The facts in the letter aren’t even true.  No child “needs” certain vaccines before a certain age.  The current vaccine time line is in place only to provide pediatricians with a template to vaccinate their patients and make it easier to keep track of.  The letter implies that these vaccines are necessary before the age of two or they won’t work.  Do you really think a vaccine given to a 2 year old works any better than one given to a 4 year old?  Of course not.

I also cannot figure out how this is legal.  I was under the impression that medical service companies, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, etc. were not allowed to offer gifts in exchange for any kind of service or product.  Of course, with major insurance and big pharma involved the laws always seem to bend just enough to allow them to walk that fine line between lawful and unlawful.

I hope those of you reading this can see through this type of deceptive marketing because that’s all it is.  The insurance companies do not truly care about your health or else they wouldn’t offer $20 to McDonald’s to go get vaccinated.  This is just another way for you to use their services and for them to make more money.

 

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Filed under Big Pharma, Public Health

Pills, pills, pills…

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Image via Wikipedia

Welcome back!  We’ve been away for a while from the blog with the Labor Day holiday but we’re back with startling new information about the amount of prescription drugs Americans take.

In my opinion, prescription medicines are the most overly used consumer product available in this country.  Many times they are used for conditions that are incredibly responsive to dietary changes, exercise and supplement programs.  Examples of these conditions includes type II diabetes, high cholesterol, depression and asthma.  These also happen to be some of the biggest money makers for the drug companies.

New research points out just how drugged we are as a society.  Over the last 10 years, the percentage of Americans who took at least one prescription drug in the past month increased from 44% to 48%, says a federal government study.  That’s right.  Almost half of the people in the United States reported taking at least one prescription drug in the last month.  Half! That means that almost 150 million people used a pharmaceutical product to deal with a health condition.

Use of two or more drugs increased from 25% to 31%, and the use of five or more drugs increased from 6% to 11%, according to the analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

The numbers for people over 60 are even more frightening.  The study found that 90% of adults 60 years old or older used at least one prescription drug in the last month. More than 76% used two or more prescription drugs and 37% used five or more.

One in five children used at least one prescription drug in the last month as well.

These numbers are astounding. Big Pharma would have you believe they are helping people be healthy by having them take their drugs.  The truth is, however, someone is not truly healthy unless they aren’t taking any drugs.  These drugs are toxic and have serious side effects.  While some drugs are necessary and allow people to live longer lives, the vast majority are over prescribed and unnecessary.

Not surprisingly, spending for prescription medications has sky rocketed.  Since 1999, spending has more than doubled.    In 2008, spending in the US for medications topped $234.1 billion.  Access to health insurance increased the risk (yes, risk) of taking a prescription medication.  While I think it’s noble to try and get everyone fair access to health insurance, it is not going to make us healthier.  It will only guarantee that more people take more medication.

These numbers are disturbing but the trend is going to continue as long as people continue to insist that drugs are the only way to treat disease and people continue to disregard their responsibility for their health.

The research is clear.  One of the largest problems with our health care system is the cost.  The research is also clear that one of the largest contributors to that cost is the dangerous side effects and interactions from drugs that were taken as prescribed.  If half of all Americans are taking prescription medication from one month to the next and medications that are taken properly significantly increase health costs in this country, shouldn’t we be trying to get Americans off prescription medication?

In order to make health care more affordable we need to get people to be healthier.  That includes getting them to exercise, watch their diet and take supplements that have shown to be effective with very low (if any) side effect.  It does not include getting more people on more drugs.  To me this is not a hard concept.  The research reflects what I am saying.  It just needs to be implemented.

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As your health care premiums rise, insurance companies make money off fast food

This is a post from the Time wellness blog.  There is a link to it below the article.  Health insurance companies should not own stock in fast food restaurants.  It’s a total conflict of interest.

Time Article

McDonald's and other fast food chains get support from, who else, health insurance companies.

Health insurance companies in the U.S., Canada and Europe hold nearly $1.9 billion in fast-food company stock, according to a new study from researchers at Harvard Medical School and the department of medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance. In the study, published this week in the American Journal of Public Health researchers examined major insurance companies’ stock holdings with five leading, publicly traded fast food chains: McDonald’s, Burger King, Jack in the Box, Yum! Brands (which owns KFC, Taco Bell, and others), and the Wendy’s/Arby’s Group. They found that, as of June 11, 2009, major health insurers owned $1.88 billion in fast-food stock, representing 2.2% of the companies’ total public holdings.

While some of the insurance companies have disputed the accuracy of these figures, the researchers found that U.S.-based insurance providers Prudential Financial, Massachusetts Mutual and Northwestern Mutual owned $355.5 million, $366 million and $422 million respectively in fast-food stock as of last June, with Northwestern Mutual representing the largest fast-food stock holding of any insurance company included in the study. ING, the insurance provider based in the Netherlands, held $406.1 million in these stocks. Canadian insurance provider Manulife held $146.1 million worth of fast-food stock. Those numbers, according to the study, were based on data from Yahoo! Finance from June 11 of last year.

The study authors argue that these findings show a disconcerting disregard among insurance companies for the a growing understanding of how the fast food industry is “increasingly understood to negatively impact public health.” Though they concede that fast food products can of course be consumed responsibly, the researchers emphasize that “the marketing and sale of products by fast food companies is done in a manner that undermines the public health,” and that having the very organizations that provide health insurance support these fast-food chains indicates corporate irresponsibility. As study author Dr. J. Wesley Boyd told the Wall Street Journal health blog:

“They’re profiting directly off the people who eat fast food, and if that leads to obesity or cardiovascular disease, they’ll charge you more for premiums if you have some of those conditions… They’re making money in either case.”

Health insurers should be “held to a higher standard” Boyd and colleagues argue before presenting two means of achieving that loftier standing. Insurance companies can either “divest themselves of holdings in fast food companies as well as other industries that have a clearly negative health impact,” they suggest, or they can use their ownership as leverage to force fast-food chains to adopt “practices consistent with widely accepted public healthy principles.”

The researchers concede that there are a few logical explanations for why health insurance providers might hold fast-food stock—to offset financial liability “associated with their policyholders consuming fast food,” due to a lack of understanding of the potential negative public health impact of excessive fast food consumption, or even simply due to a lack of communication between departments. Yet none of these explanations let the insurers of the hook, they argue. “If insurers are to play a greater part in the health care delivery system they ought to be held to a higher standard of corporate responsibility,” they write. “This responsibility includes aligning all o their resources—including financial investments—in ways that improve health or, at the very least, do not harm it.”

Dr. Court’s Comments

This is an obvious conflict of interest.  It is also another reason health premiums are so expensive.  The health insurance industry is helping fund the very industry that is making people sick!  It’s outrageous.

These are the very same companies that will charge higher premiums if you gain weight or cancel your policy if you cost them too much money.

Just the other day I had a patient come in and tell me she had been dropped by her insurance company because she had “reached her lifetime cap” in terms of spending.  That cap by the way was $1 million.  This was and continues to be a very sick woman, but the insurance company does not care.  All they know is that she is costing them too much money.

Apparently these insurance companies see nothing wrong with investing in fast food though.  Why don’t they invest in tobacco companies too?  There really is no difference.  A lifetime of smoking is not any worse for you than a lifetime of eating fast food.

There are plenty of other ways to invest the large amounts of money that insurance companies make every year.  Investing that money in fast food companies only makes your premiums higher.  It’s like the local police force supplying the drug dealers with cash. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

The insurance company will be the first to raise your premiums for eating at fast food chains.  Of course they don’t know when you actually eat there, but they do require you to have regular physicals.  If your cholesterol goes up, if your weight increases or any other health marker changes negatively, you can expect an increase in the amount of money you pay them.  They’ll turn around and invest that money back into the very problem that is plaguing society.

Fast food companies will say that their food can be eaten as part of a healthy diet. I do not agree and their marketing is designed to get you to eat at their chain as often as possible.  They’d like nothing more than for you to eat every meal at their restaurant.  However, doing this is extremely detrimental to your health.

Obesity costs this country billions each year.  The insurance companies make billions off high premiums and denying care at every turn possible.  With their profits they invest irresponsibly in companies that are playing a significant roll in the  high cost of health care in this country.  In my opinion this should be illegal.

They have the right to invest their money, don’t get me wrong.  They should be investing it in areas that improve health, not destroy it.

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