Another chapter for Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’

The headline is pretty damning: ‘Bonuses paid for dropping sick patients’. Michael Moore’s movie ‘Sicko’ introduced many of us to the practice of health insurance companies rewarding employees who deny treatment to desperately ill patients, despite the fact that the patients are fully covered by medical insurance.

Now, as the result of a lawsuit against Health Net, Inc., we learn that a large carrier will use the flimsiest of excuses to cancel policies of those undergoing expensive treatments for life-threatening illnesses like breast cancer. And not only does Health Net cancel the policies, endangering the health and survival of these patients, but it also gives out lavish bonuses to employees who find meet or exceed quotas for dropping policies on these patients.

A health insurance company serving customers in a half-dozen states set out to drop hundreds of customers and paid lucrative bonuses to an executive in charge of eliminating coverage.

One customer is suing the company, Health Net Inc., after a company salesman pressured her to switch to a Health Net plan only for the company to cut-off her coverage in the middle of costly cancer treatment.

California small-business owner Patsy Bates was one of more than 1,600 customers who had their Health Net policies rescinded between 2000 and 2006 saving the company $35.5 million, the Los Angeles Times reports. Over the same period the senior Health Net analyst in charge of canceling policies received more than $20,000 in bonuses based in part on her meeting annual targets for revoking the coverage.

http://tinyurl.com/2l6zse

Fully 30 per cent of U.S. health care dollars goes into the pockets of insurance companies rather than providing services to patients. But the insurance companies are greedy for profits and eager to enhance their bottom line. So they drop patients who actually need to have claims paid for.

Americans pay more for health care than other industrialized countries — and many folks have no access to health care at all because they have no insurance. On top of that, the health insurance carriers are finding new and creative ways to push sick people into the ranks of the uninsured.

Michael Moore and his film crew visited the industrialized countries of Canada, UK, and France to document the level of basic care that was available to everyone in those countries. He also visited Cuba and showed that the same principle of universal access to health care is practiced in that country too. The U.S. stands alone as an industrialized country with less access to health care than Cuba.

Poll after poll has shown that Americans regard health care as a major issue that they want their political leaders to address. The Democratic presidential candidates all have health care proposals posted on their website — but not the ones running for the Republican nomination. Instead the GOP candidates focus on how to deny health care to certain groups of people — illegal immigrants, poor children — or limit funding for health care for other people like military veterans.

The revelations from the lawsuit against Health Net should be the subject of Congressional hearings — but so far I don’t see a rush in either the House or Senate to investigate further. None of the presidential candidates are talking about the way health insurance companies give handsome rewards to their employees for NOT providing health care for their policy holders or even cutting them off from any coverage while they are in the throes of a life-or-death illness.

Michael Moore is the one who has shined a light on the ugly underbelly of the American health care system. And now we have this lawsuit against Health Net providing more damning evidence of the heartless greed of health insurance companies.

Internal company documents made public in the suit “provided an unprecedented peek at a company’s internal operations and marked the first time an insurer had revealed how it linked cancellations to employee performance goals and to its bottom line,” reported Lisa Girion in the LA newspaper.

The documents outline the role played by Barbara Fowler, Health Net’s senior analyst overseeing rescission reviews. The company set out to cut millions of dollars in costs by denying customer’s care, and Fowler was in charge of that effort, cutting around 300 policies per year.

In 2002, rescinded 275 policies, nearly 100 more than the company’s goal that she cut 15 policies per month (180 in a year). The next year, Fowler cut “$6 million in unnecessary health care expenses,” by eliminating 301 policies. Health Net called it a “banner year.”

Fowler’s policy-slashing acumen was on display again in 2005, when she cut $7 million worth of coverage by eliminating nearly 300 policies, again exceeding the company’s goal.

Some killers use bullets or knives — but in the 21st century the weapons can be denials of claims and policy recissions aimed at very sick patients. But murder is still murder, whether it comes from the barrel of a gun or a cold calculated corporate policy that denies health care to sick people.

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2 Comments on “Another chapter for Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’”

  1. betsyj Says:

    I used to have Heath Net insurance. Even at the time (many years ago), I was discouraged in subtle ways from getting full benefits. This is disgraceful! The companies that provide health insurance need to be held accountable or, preferably, done away with altogether.

  2. Gayla McCord Says:

    After watching Sicko, I see clearly the review that’s currently being conducted on mine and my husbands insurance is an indicator that we are about to be canceled. I saw copies of the same documents we received and had to send back in for review.

    My husband is a Gulf War Veteran and suffers from depression and bipolar. I’m so tempted to move to France at this point.

    I’m completely sick at the whole idea of insurance and health care in the states.


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