Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Does Private Health Insurance Involve Death Panels?

By now, assuming that you are at least vaguely cognizant of what's happening in the health care debate, you are well familiar with the concept of "death-panels". The notion that under a public health insurance option, one's ability to continue receiving care at an old age would be dependent upon the decisions made by a bureaucratic panel of "Deciders", was abruptly injected into the public discourse by Sarah Palin, courtesy of her Facebook page. Thus, we are led to a logical fork in the road: Either Sarah Palin is choosing to be deliberately dishonest, or she has exceedingly poor reading comprehension/analysis skills. In reality, none of the proposed health reform bills contains anything remotely close to the establishment of a death-panel. Perhaps Ms. Palin misunderstood a portion of the bill that would provide Medicare coverage for end of life counseling with a doctor. Regardless of the former vice-presidential candidate's motivations, her guerrilla warfare did provoke some pondering on my part. My logic proceeded as follows:

Let's assume that the government did establish death panels. They are distasteful yes, but the public is provided with the explanation that these death panels will increase efficiency and save everybody money. Still though, critics insist that the government can never be as efficient as the private health insurance industry. I would respond to those critics by completely agreeing with them. Why? Because in the realm of private health insurance, the industry has evolved - in a capitalistic sense - beyond the use of something so inefficient as a death panel. It's an extreme waste of time to force a panel of professionals to hear these cases one by one by one by one. Especially in the coming years, as the baby-boomer population ages, can you imagine how busy that death panel would be? Besides, these death panels - according at least to the popular portrayals of such - would be forced to take into account the person's worth to society, and calculate how many years of productive life he/she had left on this earth. The private health insurance industry however, being an evolved specimen of an industry, long ago realized that the only way to operate the gig profitably was to run the business strictly by the numbers. I had a statistics professor in college who turned out to only be a part-time employee of the university; her full time job was with Blue Cross Blue Shield, where she ran statistical models all day to identify wasteful claims. Health insurance companies don't have death panels, they have actuaries and statisticians running models which have a degree of complexity beyond the grasp of average citizens. Your fate lies in the hands (microprocessor) of a computer.

Perhaps therein lies the heart of the confusion. Maybe folks are just more scared of the easily envisaged Government solution than the insurance models, for which they don't know what they don't know. But wait a minute. If we've already confirmed that a government option has no provision for the mythical "Death Panel" creature, then what are we really to conclude? Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Post a Comment