Okay, here is one of those situations which makes me question if our health care system is really the “best in the world”. The Wall Street Journal reports today that UnitedHealth announced a 5.5% rise in its profits, higher than expected. This is reported as very good news for the economy, as UnitedHealth is the first medical insurance company to reveal its profits this quarter, and is a good indicator of how other insurance companies are doing.
The reason UnitedHealth’s profits are higher than expected? Due to the recession, people have been avoiding hospitals and doctors in order to save money.
This right there is a problem. We have a system in which patients and insurance companies are on opposing sides. Patients have to use as few services as possible if the insurance company is to make a profit. The criticism we always hear of a government-run system is that it would deny people services, but it sure seems to me like the private insurance company would also want to find ways to deny its customers services, otherwise, where is the profit? This, of course, is why we need Medicare–the elderly get sick too often to be profitable. The article states that as the economy gradually improves, the use of medical services is expected to pick up again–but will that not be bad news for the insurance industry, and thus bad news for a large sector of our economy? This sounds like a lose-lose situation.
Granted, there are inefficiences and abuses in the health care system, and the population of our country could stand to lead a healthier lifestyle, which would cut down on health care costs. But the thing about medical care is, it’s not always a choice. Sometimes you simply need to be able to use it. And if people are foregoing preventive care which could avoid more serious problems later so that they can save money, the results of that cannot possibly be good.
Naturally, the irony of all this is that the Affordable Care Act does not scrap the private insurance industry. Rather, it expands the customer base for it. So this blog is by no means meant to sing the praises of recent health care reform. It is just meant to express yet again the serious doubts I have about our current system. If there is any way to read the above news about UnitedHealth and take away something positive from it, I would love to hear it.