So this is basically how I feel about the insurance industry.
“…You tried to kill my brother. Prepare to die.”
Years ago, an insurance company did indeed try to kill my younger brother Jamie.
The story is basically this: my brother was born with the same disease I have. As soon as he was born, mom signed him up to the company insurance plan.
Then when Jamie got sick, very sick, the company (Connecticut General / CIGNA) refused to pay, saying he was not signed up with them. When pressed for why Jamie was listed in their computer, they suggested mom must have illegally trespassed and entered him in there—absurd–and they had no evidence at all.
They wanted to unplug hospital care for baby Jamie.
So we took them to court to enforce the contract (under ERISA, whether someone is enrolled or not is one of the few things the government allows you to sue their insurance buddies over; you can’t sue over a denied claim). Essentially, Connecticut General / CIGNA signed a contract, then wanted to weasel out when they realized it may cause them losses. Money mattered more to them than a beautiful baby. This was in the mid-1980s, at the height of Reaganism and Gordon Gecko-style greed.
We won. As you can see from the above photograph, Jamie is still alive, despite the company’s years of fighting to end his medical care.
The “Jackpot justice” meme is greatly exaggerated. We came out with a net monetary loss, as my family got buried in legal fees for years.
This lengthy battle was really traumatic for my family. As a result, from a young age, I’ve distrusted corporations big-time. They will always put profits ahead of human lives (they have a responsibility to their shareholders to do so) whether it’s dumping pollution, letting unclean peanut plants fester in order to save money, or denying a liver transplant and killing a girl to save money. The bottom line is the bottom line.
Several months ago, I overheard two doctors here at the hospital talking about a patient who recently had valve replacement surgery, and against the doctors’ strenuous objections, his HMO put him (a new cardiac rehab patient!) in the C building (nursing home) where they don’t even have oxygen, because it was the cheapest available option. Of course, his death would be the ultimate cost-saver.
A few years back, my mom’s spine worsened to the point that she required surgery and can no longer sit in chairs for long or walk for extended periods. Of course, the disability insurance she had paid into for decades denied she was disabled, and cut her off. You pay into insurance, but the companies all have a legal responsibility to their shareholders to limit outlays (i.e. shaft you) and maximize return on investment. Mom eventually got a lawyer and challenged the decision, but after legal costs, she got much less than if the company had simply honored its original agreement.
I cringe as during the current health care debate, so many politicians get up and defend this awful, immoral system as their sacred cow. I see nothing worth saving.