Another Reason Why We Need Real Health Care Reform (UPDATED)

Let me introduce you to a dirty little practice called ‘recession‘:

The South Carolina Supreme Court has ordered an insurance company to pay $10 million for wrongly revoking the insurance policy of a 17-year-old college student after he tested positive for HIV. The court called the 2002 decision by the insurance company “reprehensible.”

That appears to be the most an insurance company has ever been ordered to pay in a case involving the practice known as rescission, in which insurance companies retroactively cancel coverage for policyholders based on alleged misstatements – sometimes right after diagnoses of life-threatening diseases.


[Jerome] Mitchell learned that he had HIV when, while heading to college, he donated blood. Fortis [his insurance company] then rescinded his coverage, citing what turned out to be an erroneous note from a nurse in his medical records that indicated that he might have been diagnosed prior to his obtaining his insurance policy.

[Emphasis added]

This is the sad, sorry state of health care in America–health insurance companies make money by denying as much medical care as possible to their customers, particularly the sick customers who need that care most.

But wait, there’s more:

An investigation this summer by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and earlier ones by state regulators in California, New York and Connecticut, found that thousands of vulnerable and seriously ill policyholders have had their coverage canceled by many of the nation’s largest insurance companies without any legal basis. The congressional committee found that three insurance companies alone made at least $300 million over five years from rescission. One of those three companies was Assurant.

In Febuary [sic] 2008, a private arbitration judge in Los Angeles ordered Health Net Inc. to pay more than $9 million to a breast cancer patient whose health insurance it revoked shortly after her diagnosis and while she was undergoing chemotherapy. The plaintiff in that case, Patsy Bates, a then-52-year-old grandmother and hair-salon owner, was unable to continue her chemotherapy for several months.

During the case, evidence emerged that Health Net had paid bonuses to employees to reward them based on the number of policyholders they had rescinded. The judge who awarded Bates the $9 million said in his decision: “It’s difficult to imagine a policy more reprehensible than tying bonuses to encourage the rescission of health insurance that keeps the public well and alive.”

[Emphasis mine]

And conservatives are still trying to tell us that we have the best health care system in the world, a system where companies pay their employees bonuses to take health insurance away from seriously ill people.

‘Recession’ needs to stop. Denying people coverage because of pre-existing conditions needs to stop.  We need a health care system that takes care of everyone in need, and that’s why we need real health care reform–not weak, watered-down giveaways to the very same insurance industry that right now abandons sick people to die.

22,000 Americans die every year because they lack adequate health care. How many of them were victims of recession? How many of them were denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition? Most importantly, how many of them can we save with comprehensive health care reform?

Wake up America–people are dying. How much are 22,000 American lives worth? Shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to ensure that no more Americans die because they don’t have health insurance?

The GOP can stand with their corporate masters.  Me, I’m going to stand with the American people–because even one life is too much to lose for the sake of corporate profits.

UPDATE: Remember, the lawsuits mentioned above are the reason we know about the disgusting practice known as ‘recession.’

Lawsuits like those are how we know that insurance companies are paying their employees extra to strip sick people of their health insurance.

And lawsuits like those are how people like Jerome Mitchell and Patsy Bates get recourse after their health insurance company illegally strips them of the coverage they rightfully paid for and deserve as soon as they get sick.

And yet, the GOP is demanding, demanding that health care reform include tort reform.  That’s right, a major part of conservative health care reform is to protect the very same health insurers who are making money hand-over-fist by denying people care. And not just protecting them, but protecting them from the very people whose care they denied.

And guess what? Tort reform won’t even make a dent in the cost of health care:

Q: But critics of the current system say that 10 to 15 percent of medical costs are due to medical malpractice.

A: That’s wildly exaggerated. According to the actuarial consulting firm Towers Perrin, medical malpractice tort costs were $30.4 billion in 2007, the last year for which data are available. We have a more than a $2 trillion health care system. That puts litigation costs and malpractice insurance at 1 to 1.5 percent of total medical costs. That’s a rounding error. Liability isn’t even the tail on the cost dog. It’s the hair on the end of the tail.
So the GOP wants to protect wealthy, corrupt insurance companies from the very people their policies are hurting, and they say we can’t have health care reform without doing that.
Do we need any more proof that conservatives just aren’t on the side of the American people here?