Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Cutting Health Insurance Costs
This post should be filed under "Phoenix is becoming a grouchy old lady."

We have what can only be called really good health insurance. It probably isn't the best, but it is definitely very good. Well, what with the whole industry's costs going through the roof, the insurance companies have been looking for a way to do better on eliminating costs and tightening belts.

Which is all well and good, as far as goals go, but our insurance company is taking an odd approach.

Please allow me to elaborate. (Allow? Like you are going to stop me typing? Skip the post if you are bored out of your gourd.)

So, our health insurance company has taken an approach that, to me at least, indicates the following policies at work.

1) smoking is bad for people
2) drinking is not good for people
3) seeing the doctor even when you aren't feeling bad is good for people
4) asking intrusive questions about every aspect of your life is good for people

I will agree that smoking is probably not beneficial to your health. I'll even go so far as to say it is bad. What I take issue with, however, is the fact that the company wants me to get certified as "smoke free" every year. My issues with this are twofold: first - I'm 30-some years old and I've never smoked a cigarette in my life. I'm not likely to start now, even if the cool kids are doing it. Having to get re-certified every year is a huge pain in the ass. Second, the certification process is asinine. The company won't take my word that I'm smoke free, they want a doctor to say so. Maybe your doctor has a spy cam on you at all times, but mine does not (thankfully). So, the only thing he has to go on is my...word. That's right. My doctor asks me if I'm smoke free, I say yes, and he signs the paper. Anybody else see the comedy in this? I pay the insurance company (who doesn't trust me), they pay the doctor (who they trust and who trusts me). He's getting paid as a middle-man for doing nothing more than signing his name and checking a box. And somehow...somehow, me missing work and having to go to an appointment with the doctor to get this done every year is reducing costs. How? HOW? Somebody explain to me how requiring a doctor's appointment that I wouldn't have otherwise is cutting costs?

Alcohol doesn't have the social taboo that smoking provides, so the insurance company doesn't require me to pee in a cup and be certified as alcohol-free, but they do make a big deal about it in the questionnaire, which I'll elaborate on in a moment.

Going to the doctor for the sake of going to the doctor. I'm a busy lady. Lots to do. I believe in preventive care and preventive maintenance. I especially believe that this type of care is most important and most beneficial in children, the elderly, and the pregnant. Normal, non-pregnant, feeling fine adults, however? I don't think they need to go to the doctor just to go to the doctor. Call me crazy! It is true, I'm not particularly fond of doctors in general - I get white coat fever and my blood pressure goes up just thinking about it. But, I still don't see the need for me to go and sit on the beef paper and have my knee tapped. What's the point? Now, if I've been sick, sure! Call the doctor. If I'm bleeding? Get me to the ER! It is a normal Wednesday, I feel fine and have shit to do? I'll pass on the doctor. Furthermore, do you know where sick people can be found? At the doctor's office! Sending healthy people there for no good reason seems...irresponsible (and that's not just the white coat fever talking). Why can I not be trusted to just go to the doctor when I feel sick? Huh? Wouldn't I know better than the doctor how I'm feeling? How does this cut costs, exactly?

And then there's that questionnaire. This thing is so idiotic, I can't even describe it. First off, all the questions are written in the "Do you still beat your wife?" format. They assume that you are both walking wounded and psychiatrically deficient and liable to go postal at any moment. In fact, if you aren't depressed before starting the questionnaire, not to worry!, you will be by the end of it. It is as though they assumed that you would lie on this completely anonymous form, so they didn't offer you a "none of the above" or "not applicable" option. And, they don't give you the opportunity to not answer a question either!

Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

How often do you think about ending your own life in a given week?
a) once or twice
b) daily
c) twice daily
d) constantly
e) I'm already in the planning stages

Notice how there is no "umm - I don't think about ending my life, I'm pretty content" option?

Then, later in the survey, they ask you if there are any guns in your home. All I'm saying is, they believe you are suicidal and then ask you to look for a weapon. Now that's one way of cutting health care costs: putting the suicidals on the fast track!

The entire thing is just dumb. But, nowhere near as dumb as this: when you complete this anonymous survey, they send you $25. Now really, how is this cutting costs?

As far as I can see, it is increasing costs! First, they have me making and keeping unnecessary medical appointments with a doctor who should rightly be tending to the sick. Then, they have to hire a full staff of idiotic survey writers and IT folks to do all this fancy schmancy web design and data gathering and compiling and analysis. Then they have to have somebody writing checks to people for completing the survey, and finally, they have to pay the $25. The icing on the cake? If I complete two more surveys, they send me another $75. Now, not a lot of people are going to do the first survey, let alone two more. But, that just makes it worse because now the incremental cost of the program is going up!

Bah! This is some stupid way to cut costs, that's all I'm saying.


posted by Phoenix | 10:42 AM


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