Thursday, August 6, 2009

Us Against Them!!! Are Doctors Willing to Fight?

As physicians become the target for the escalating cost of healthcare, it's time to turn our focus on the insurance industry. When the POTUS came into office, the insurance industry was quick to extend an olive branch agreeing to abandon some of their controversial practices.

This week, Karen Ignagni, chief lobbyist for the insurance industry struck back at Congress after the industry was labeled "villains." Ms Ignagni has been towing a fine line between convincing the government that the industry is serious about changing their evil ways, yet, still protect her clients financial interests. Considering that the largest insurers earned $13 billion in 2007, can we feel sorry for an industry that increases your premiums on an annual basis regardless if you used your policy or not, has denied coverage to subscribers with pre-existing conditions, has denied coverage to dying patients, has failed to increase reimbursement for medical services provided by physicians in years, has pitted patient against doctor, and has done a pretty good job of painting physicians as the villain in the healthcare debate?

Let's be honest, the insurance industry has forced surgeons to become out-of-network providers, and to identify creative ways to increase their revenues. When you place a cap on reimbursements, one cannot expect surgeons to play by the rules. First and foremost, the mantra at these companies is that they have a responsibility to their shareholders. Did anyone complain when United Healthcare back dated stock options? It took the State of California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) to file a class action lawsuit to satisfy a complaint that grew out of a 2006 scandal where William McGuire, M.D., CEO of United Healthcare used the backdating as incentive payment. During his tenure, McGuire transformed United making it a $70 billion dollar profit generator returning nearly 30% annually to investors. Pretty impressive, yet, how much of that revenue came from denying coverage, capping physician reimbursements and pitting the general public against doctors, and at whose cost? The patient and the physician. In the end, McGuire agreed to pay $30 million and relinquish stock option rights to settle the suit, while United Healthcare Group paid $895 million. Mr. McGuire went on to say that he was proud of the work that the men and women of United had achieved.

So Doctor, the next time your lobbyist is sitting next to Ms. Ignagni, remind them that underneath all that charm, a piranha is circling the waters. The SpineBlogger wants to know what you think?

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