May 4th, 2010
03:34 PM ET

When it comes to health care reform results, don't drink the Kool-Aid

David Gewirtz | BIO
AC360° Contributor
Director, U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://img2.timeinc.net/health/images/gallery/living/mebills-insurance-nightmare-400.jpg caption="Gewirtz: Keep an eye on insurance company practices." width=300 height=169]

I don't normally like to criticize other media outlets, both because it's poor professional practice and because they're generally smarter than me. But when it comes to wearing rose-colored glasses about something as important as America's health care, I feel the need to step up.

This week, The New York Times posted an editorial entitled "End to Rescission, and More Good News". This wasn't an editorial by one of their columnists, this was an official Times editorial.

In it, the editors crow about how, after getting spanked recently, insurers have decided to eliminate the practice of rescission four months earlier than the new law's September 2010 deadline. The editors describe this as early evidence that the health care reform law is starting to work.

Rescission, if you're not aware, is the practice where health insurance companies drop your coverage if you get too sick. I wrote about it in depth in The Healthcare Hostage Crisis: Insurance is no assurance last September.

Here's the thing. Each year, the American health care industry takes in considerably more than we spend on national defense. It's the single largest industry in the world - and in the history of mankind.

In other words, it's worth a lot of money.

Good PR is also worth a lot of money. Good PR deflects investigation, it reduces scrutiny, and it dampens down anger. So if the insurance companies can get some good PR for a change, it's good for their businesses over the long term.

Saying they're eliminating the practice of rescission is good PR. But our insurance industry has shown they're champions of gaming the system.

So here's my caution to all insurance company customers, members of the press, and America's political leadership: don't trust them all that much.

Keep an eye on insurance company practices. Insurance might not drop customers when they're sick, but will they delay payment? Will they decline coverage or make it harder for the patients to get care in other ways? Will they find other excuses to prevent paying out for the big procedures?

We're talking billions (and, over the longer term, trillions) of dollars here. We'd be fools to think America's insurance industry is just going to roll over and give in all that easily.

Follow David on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz.

Editor’s note: David Gewirtz is Director of the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute and Editor-in-Chief of the ZATZ magazines. He is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts and a top expert on saving and creating jobs. He is a member of FBI InfraGard, the Cyberterrorism Advisor for the International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals, a columnist for The Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, and has been a guest commentator for the Nieman Watchdog of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. He is a faculty member at the University of California, Berkeley extension, a recipient of the Sigma Xi Research Award in Engineering and was a candidate for the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in Letters.

Filed under: David Gewirtz • Health Care
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