Thursday, February 4, 2016
Time For A Little Firesign Theater
The real name for this post would have been How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All. The link to the 1969 Firesign Theater album will let you listen to the album while you continue to read this post. Of course, if you are of a certain age, I’ve already lost you…
How can you be two places at once? How can you appear to advocate for something while you spend all of your time and energies undermining that very same thing? This being Health Insurance Issues With Dave, smart money says that this is probably about health insurance and the companies that sell it.
The major insurers want you to know that they are here for you. Ask them. They’ll tell you. The major insurers litter their public pronouncements and email communications to their agents with words like commitment and partnership. Companies such as Aetna, Cigna, Anthem and UnitedHealth Care want you, the American public, to know that they are committed to their partnership with the American people and are ready to deliver their product through the federal exchange, the state exchanges and whatever platform available to them. You can hear the Battle Hymn of the Republic playing in the background as you read the emails, the fruit of the labors of their overworked PR departments.
And this would be wonderful if it were true. But, of course, it isn’t. There would be a huge uproar if the largest insurers abandoned the exchanges. Terrible publicity. Government officials and the heads of the exchanges would all blast the insurers as bad corporate citizens and incompetents. Plus, drop out of the market and they can’t get back in for five years. So the insurers needed to find a backdoor.
The solution is to stop paying the agents. Anthem, Aetna, Cigna, UnitedHealth Care all hope that by not paying the agents during the Special Enrollment Period we will place our business with those companies who will. Sure that may push all of the clients to one or two companies from February till December, but it won’t be them. And what would happen if all of the companies stop paying the agents, so that none of us can afford to spend the hours of time necessary to match Americans to the appropriate policy and insurer? NOTHING! No one with any authority would ever notice that thousands of Americans were even more unhappy than usual with their health insurance.
The insurers are losing millions of dollars on policies written on the exchanges. The Special Enrollment Periods are being abused. The federal exchange is not enforcing the rules. Fixing the problem is an option. It would take a lot of work and require the building of trust between the exchanges and the insurers. Removing the incentive to do our jobs is easier but terribly cynical. But Congress attempted to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or Obamacare) for the 60+ time last week. What is more cynical than that? So who is going to notice one more act of self-serving cynicism?
The insurers will continue to say one thing publicly and do the exact opposite privately. But like Nick Danger, we are lost on the wrong side of the album and you really can’t be two places at once.