Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wednesday Already?

So this really blows me away.  A Minnesota debt collector has placed employees in emergency rooms and demanding payment before the patient even receives treatment.  The New York Times suggests that this may be happening all over the country.  And it is an outrage.  The debt collectors had access to medical information, violating privacy rules.  They dress so that they are indistinguishable from hospital employees.  They may not have identified themselves as debt collectors, as required under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  Maybe I'm just missing something, but since the federal government pays nonprofit hospitals millions of dollars to compensate them for uncompensated care, I'm not sure why the hospitals feel so squeezed.  But I do know that they have no place in treatment areas of hospitals -- period.

And here's an opinion piece that makes me really mad.  The article says that Social Security disability is a bad thing, that it's too easy to get benefits, that it takes people out of the job market prematurely and slows economic growth.  You know, I talk to a lot of people on disability -- and a lot of people who are trying to get disability.  It's certainly not easy to get -- that much is for sure.  The article also says we can fix this by making employers buy private disability insurance so that they feel the pain every time they drive an employee to disability.  Bosses would then provide rehab and improve working conditions.  Really?  I do agree that we need to find more ways for disabled people to work.  So many people could earn a living if they could work from home.  But in my experience, the companies who offer private disability insurance are no less likely to push people to disability.  The problem is far more complex than this -- for example, if we had better, more affordable health care, people wouldn't get so sick that they end up on disability.  How about stopping the trend to high deductible health insurance so people would get the care they need to stay healthy and employed?  Yes, there are answers, but the answer isn't making disability harder to get than it already is.

A new study shows that painkiller abusers start at home, getting drugs from family or friends.  Kids find drugs in medicine closets and experiment.  Okay, then.  It seems that this should be an easy enough fix.  Parents, lock your drugs up where they can't be found by your kids.  If you're on pain meds, don't share them.  But what I worry about most of all when I read articles like this is that the crack down on pain meds is hurting people with legitimate chronic pain who are finding it increasingly difficult to get the meds they need.  So the people who have pain meds legitimately have to take responsibility for their use if you want pain meds to be available when you need them.

Join Costco and buy Aetna health insurance?  Sort of interesting.  I think insurers are trying to use agents and brokers less because commissions go on the administrative side of the medical loss ratio formula (percentage of premium dollars spent on health care).  Avoiding paying commissions is one way to make more room for other administrative costs -- like salaries and bonuses.  Expect to see more retail selling of health insurance, I predict.

And those are the stories that interested me today.  What do you think?  Jennifer

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