Why Do We Need Health Insurance Companies?

The LA Times asks an interesting question:

In short, this is an industry that acts as if it will have trouble making money unless regulators allow it to cover only injuries suffered by a young single male hit by an asteroid.

Meanwhile, however, it fritters premium income away on expenses generated largely by corporate initiatives having nothing to do with healthcare. WellPoint spent $2.6 billion repurchasing its own shares last year. This was such a good deal for shareholders that its board recently authorized spending an additional $3.5?billion for the same purpose. None of those dollars, it should go without saying, will be available for delivering healthcare to customers.

It would have been marvelous and uplifting if all the participants in Thursday’s health reform summit in Washington understood that as well as the insurers themselves.

Instead, the health reform obstructionists, who mostly belong to the Republican Party, mouthed the same tired and irrelevant bromides. They yammered about blocking malpractice lawsuits, even though the evidence shows that malpractice litigation, including the “defensive medicine” it foments, accounts for 2% to 3% of the country’s annual healthcare bill of $1.7 trillion. (Arguably a small price to pay, at that, for the value of giving patients injured by malpractice redress for their injuries.)

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