Krugman’s Insurance Horror Stories

When discussing the number of people without insurance (here, here), I’ve also noted that many of those who do have insurance are still do not receive adequte coverage when they are sick. Paul Krugman addressed one aspect of this in today’s column on the ways in which insurance companies find to dump patients who cost them money:

Between 2000 and 2005, the number of Americans with private health insurance coverage fell by 1 percent. But over the same period, employment at health insurance companies rose a remarkable 32 percent. What are all those extra employees doing?

Now we know at least part of the answer: they’re working harder than ever at identifying people who really need medical care, and ensuring that they don’t get it. In the past, they mainly concentrated on screening out applicants likely to get sick. Now, it seems, they’re also devoting a lot of effort to finding pretexts for revoking insurance after they’ve already granted it. They typically do this by claiming that they weren’t notified about some pre-existing condition, even if the insured wasn’t aware of that condition when he or she bought the policy.

Welcome to the ugly world of American health care economics.

Health care is poised to become America’s largest industry. Employment in manufacturing, which once dominated the economy, has fallen 18 percent since 2000, to 14.2 million. Meanwhile, employment in the private health services industry has risen 16 percent, to 12.6 million. Another 1.3 million people are employed at government hospitals. So we’re quickly approaching the point at which more Americans will be employed delivering health care than are employed producing manufactured goods.

Yet even as health care becomes the core of the American economy, our system of paying for health care remains sick, and is getting sicker.

Because everyone faces some risk of incurring huge medical costs, only the superrich can afford to be without health insurance. Yet private insurers try to refuse coverage to those most likely to need it, and deny payment whenever they can get away with it.

The point isn’t that they’re evil or greedy (although you do wonder how the people who cut off the Schaeffers can look themselves in the mirror). The fact is that cruelty and injustice are the inevitable result of the current rules of the game. Blue Shield of California is a nonprofit insurance provider, yet as a spokesman put it, if his organization doesn’t follow the for-profit practice of selectively covering only the healthiest people, “we will end up with all the high-risk people.”


UN Report Finds Torture Worse in Iraq Than Under Saddam

I’ve never been very interested in discussions of whether Iraq is better or worse off as a result of the US invasion. Regardless of the answer, we certainly are not going to consider reinstalling Saddam. It is difficult to compare tyranny as opposed to civil war (sometimes accompanied by tyranny) and most likey the answer differs for different people. That said, here’s one report which does compare one parameter before and after Saddam–torture.

The BBC reports that the United Nation’s chief anti-torture expert says torture many be worse now than under Saddam:

Manfred Nowak said the situation in Iraq was “out of control”, with abuses being committed by security forces, militia groups and anti-US insurgents.

Bodies found in the Baghdad morgue “often bear signs of severe torture”, said the human rights office of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq in a report.

Nowak has not actually visited Iraq but has based his report on autopsies and interviews with refugees. He says he would be unable to obtain an accurate report from visiting Iraq due to the level of violence which would prevent him from leaving the Green Zone (which, for our Michigan State readers, is not where Drew Stanton practices passing the football). Both the level of torture, regardless of whether it is worse than under Saddam, and the overall level of violence demonstrate the failure of US policy.

Quote of the Day

“One of the cornerstones of the Republican Party’s strategy for winning elections these days is voter suppression, intentionally putting up barriers between eligible voters and the ballot box.”

New York Times editorial on Republican-backed legislation requiring photo ID to vote. Needless to say, there are many other examples of this beyond the ID requirements.

CIA Refused Illegal Orders From Bush Administration

The Financial Times reports that the secret CIA prisons were closed because CIA agents were no longer willing to break the law. Perhaps they were considering the lessons of the Nuremburg War Crimes Trials that following orders is no defense for violating international law. This is consistent with my previous post that CIA agents were purchasing legal insurance out of fear that the actions ordered by the Bush Administration were illegal.

Initially it was believed that Bush changed his policy on the secret prisons for domestic political reasons:

But the former CIA officials said Mr Bush’s hand was forced because interrogators had refused to continue their work until the legal situation was clarified because they were concerned they could be prosecuted for using illegal techniques. One intelligence source also said the CIA had refused to keep the secret prisons going.

Senior officials and Mr Bush himself have come close to admitting this by saying CIA interrogators sought legal clarity. But no official has confirmed on the record how and when the secret programme actually came to an end.

John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, who was interviewed by Fox News on Sunday, said in response to a question of whether CIA interrogators had refused to work: “I think the way I would answer you in regard to that question is that there’s been precious little activity of that kind for a number of months now, and certainly since the Supreme Court decision.”

In an interview with the Financial Times, John Bellinger, legal adviser to the state department, went further, saying there had been “very little operational activity” on CIA interrogations since the passage last December of a bill proposed by Senator John McCain outlawing torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners.

Bush Flip Flops Again on Capturing bin Laden

Reuters reports that George Bush says “if he had firm intelligence that Osama bin Laden was in Pakistan, he would issue the order to go into that country after the al Qaeda leader.” (Update: More from CNN).
Ok tough guy, why didn’t you capture him when you had him surrounded at Tora Bora?

Pakistan is not happy with Bush’s comments:

When Bush’s remarks were put to Musharraf at a news conference at the United Nations, the Pakistani leader replied: “We wouldn’t like to allow that. We’d like to do that ourselves.”

This is yet another flip flop for George Bush. Last week capturing bin Laden “not a top priority use of American resources.” Bush also had a different viewpoint on going into Pakistan.

“Pakistan is a sovereign nation. In order for us to send thousands of troops into a sovereign nation, we’ve got to be invited by the government of Pakistan,” he said at a press conference here Friday.