Bashing Health Insurers and Tiger’s Apology

Last Friday Adam Shewmaker and I watched the Tiger Woods apology courtesy at a local sports bar that I occasionally frequent for lunch. A reporter and cameraman from one of the local television stations was interviewing patrons asking what they thought about Tiger and his apology. I couldn’t help thinking about how ridiculous the coverage of Tiger and his transgressions has become.

William Rhoden’s opinion piece in the sports section of Sunday’s New York Times reflects my view of the entire affair:

“What a precious waste of time. The obsession with Tiger Woods’s personal life and infidelity says more about our misguided priorities as a nation than it does about Woods.”

Really just a diversion from more important matters.

That’s the same reaction I had to the headline and article in Sunday’s CJ, “Health insurers defend profits.”  A diversion from more important matters.

The lead in the article focuses on the rising profits of our major health insurers when comparing 2009 to 2008. I’ll concede that it is difficult for many to get their heads around profit increases for insurers while Rome burns, but the fact is those profits, as pointed out later in the article, “a rounding error” when considering the health care “market.”

The reasons for cost increases, which insurers simply aggregate and pass on to those who pay, are many and varied: people are older, technology is expensive, payment systems promote excessive utilization, diagnosis and treatment of many is delayed, and on and on and on. Fundamentally the system must be reformed.

One fact pointed out in the article is the high percentage of administrative costs for health insurers…18-20%. Take this fact along with the high administrative costs of providers, the marketing spend for big pharma and device companies and other factors and it’s easy to see that we need to closely examine the regulatory scheme and implement better information technology.

In any event, it seems to me that we need as a citizenry to focus on the root causes, the real issues, and avoid the siren call of the hyped diversion, whether its Tiger Woods or the hated health insurance company.

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