Often in this humble blog, I complain about the manipulative evils of various industries: the pharmaceutical industry, the petroleum industry, and a number of others. An industry I hadn’t considered — until recently, that is — is the insurance industry. And in terms of the amount of human suffering they cause, insurers may be the worst industry I’ve ever ranted about. Insurance is not an inherently bad idea. Among the various methods of paying for healthcare, it’s one of the better ones. The problem is greed and corruption. Of late, the insurance companies have been hiking their premiums excessively, making insurance very difficult for many people to afford. So, straight away, insurers cut out anybody who can’t afford their prices. These people, however, happen to be those who would probably most benefit from health insurance: African Americans (who, it is believed, are more prone to heart disease and diabetes), the poor, and the homeless.
There is another slice of the population that the insurance companies toss in the garbage (metaphorically speaking): the chronically ill. The aim of insurance is to help people pay for the ridiculously expensive medical treatments they require, right? Not if you’re chronically sick. If you have cancer or diabetes or heart disease, good luck trying to find any kind of health insurance. Insurance companies simply don’t want to take on the “risk” of people who are in need of frequent, and often expensive, healthcare. So, once again, they cut out another segment of the population who could most benefit from their services.
Do you notice a pattern emerging? It would seem that insurance companies only want to insure those that would cost them the least: middle- and upper-class citizens with little prior history of health problems and little genetic predisposition to them, so that they can take as much of their premiums as possible for themselves. Almost makes the oil companies look tame in comparison.
But wait, there’s more! With the advent of the Human Genome Project, and the ability to predict genetic disease, the Insurers will at last be able to cut out the remaining group that steals their income away from them: the people who even have a chance of getting sick. Imagine: the year is around 2015, and genetic testing is becoming more and more accurate. Suppose you’re a twenty-something woman from a middle-class background who wants to buy some health insurance. Well, you’d better hope that you don’t have any genetic predisposition to disease! And you’d really better hope that the insurance company doesn’t have the legal clout to force you to get tested for genetic diseases! “I’m afraid you’re un-insurable, Ms. Doe, as you have a ten percent risk of developing ovarian cancer within the next thirty years.”
You can probably see why this would be a problem: the insurance companies appear to be moving in the direction of insuring people who rarely or never get sick. Wait a minute! These are the people who need insurance the least! You can see where problems would arise, and how your friendly Insurer might seem just a bit immoral, or at the least, shortsighted.
Think about that the next time you’re feeling under the weather: how sick can you really afford to get?