Alternative Medicine Providers Show Their Greedy Side

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Congress is on holiday this month, but the lobbyists are baiting their hooks, planning their strategies for how to get more money for themselves.


A growing lobby is Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM ) providers, who have discovered a new opportunity to extract even more money from patients than they do already. They want the government to force insurance providers to pay for quack treatments, regardless of whether or not the treatments work. Any attempt to require evidence, they argue, amounts to discrimination.

Discrimination? Yes! We must not allow the government to exclude health care providers just because those providers don’t cure anything.  The CAMmers argument boils down to this: we have patients who want our services.  The patients like us. In some cases, thanks to lobbying at the state level, we even have state-approved licenses. Therefore insurance companies must pay for our services.

Neat.

To be specific, the CAMmers are lobbying furiously to try to protect a special clause in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that promises them a fertile new ground for making money from vulnerable patients.

The strategy is simple: require the government to fund any treatment that a patient wants, and dress this up as “patient choice.”  Then if insurance companies resist paying for ineffective treatments, accuse them of discriminating against the poor, hapless “integrative medicine” providers.

Written By: Steven Salzberg
continue to source article at forbes.com

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  1. I recently re-watched James Randy on a TED talk. He starts the thing off by eating a whole bottle of “Calms Forte”; a homeopathic sleep “medicine”. He eats 32 of the things and then gives his talk. He does divulge what he has done and in a wicked display of wit, he says (I paraphrase): “A practitioner of homeopathy actually said to me that the less of the medicine left in the dilution process the more effective the chemical…” Randy then mutters “well then I overdosed this morning when I forgot to take the pills”…

    It is great stuff. He also crushes the “talking to the dead” assholes….

  2. I’m a little conflicted here given that health insurance is a global evil whose practitioners should be executed for all they’ve done to modern medicine. Forcing them to pay more is wrong, obviously and especially since their favourite pastime is ratcheting up the costs to patients, their second favourite being refusing to pay for necessary treatment, but they’re never shy about finding excuses to screw people over. The quack medicine peddling scheme is probably something they wish they’d thought up themselves.

    • In reply to #4 by Tintern:

      I’m a little conflicted here given that health insurance is a global evil whose practitioners should be executed for all they’ve done to modern medicine. Forcing them to pay more is wrong, obviously and especially since their favourite pastime is ratcheting up the costs to patients,

      Do I take it that you are using medical services in the USA, where the price is roughly twice the price people pay in other deveoped countries but providing a poorer service – due to the rake-offs you mention?

      This graph gives a detailed comparison.

      http://thesocietypages.org/graphicsociology/2011/04/26/cost-of-health-care-by-country-national-geographic/

      I have to say I have been very happy with our UK National Insurance, and National health Service, (having had a week in hospital last month) but as elsewhere the homeopaths and other quacks are constantly trying to get a foot in the door. The political stooges are also trying to down-grade our service, and out-source contracting to provide opportunities for profiteering more in-line with the US. .

      • In reply to #6 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #4 by Tintern:

        I’m a little conflicted here given that health insurance is a global evil whose practitioners should be executed for all they’ve done to modern medicine. Forcing them to pay more is wrong, obviously and especially since their favourite pastime is ratcheting up the costs t…

        Great graph! When you throw in other indicators like “mortality amenable to healthcare ” the US performance is even graver (sic). USA- 96 per hundred thousand. France 55….

    • In reply to #4 by Tintern:

      Hi Tintern,

      I’m a little conflicted here given that health insurance is a global evil whose practitioners should be executed for all they’ve done to modern medicine.

      I am ignorant of this evil.

      Please educate me.

      Peace.

      • In reply to #7 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

        In reply to #4 by Tintern:Hi Tintern,I’m a little conflicted here given that health insurance is a global evil whose practitioners should be executed for all they’ve done to modern medicine.I am ignorant of this evil.Please educate me.Peace.

        Hi Stephen,
        Respectfully, educate yourself on the matter. The starting point is low-income means low access and some significant steps on the way are the abuse of elective categorising and leaving people to die in corridors because they’ve arrived at a hospital they’re not covered by – in an ambulance.

        • In reply to #18 by Tintern:

          Hi Tintern,

          I forgot about this thread, so I’m coming back to it late. I realise I may not get a reply.

          Respectfully, educate yourself on the matter.

          I am schooled in the basics. I recently did some work for a British health insurance company. As part of that work we looked at standards in Eire, Britain and the United States – with reference to international organisations like the WHO.

          The starting point is low-income means low [levels of] access [to healthcare] …

          Surely the starting point is that we all, at some point, fall ill? The next step is that, in modern medicine, there is probably some way to address any illness or disability?

          To confuse political agenda – over healthcare access as a component of social policy – with the above imperatives is not helpful. I still fail to see what that has to do with insurance, and funding of health care?

          … and some significant steps on the way are the abuse of elective categorising and leaving people to die in corridors because they’ve arrived at a hospital they’re not covered by – in an ambulance.

          I’m sorry but, even to a healthcare novice like me, this is very confused – emergency, or urgent, care and elective care, are different things. By definition elective means people sometimes elect to turn down that care – more often they postpone it.

          You’re comment also lumps categorising for elective care and triage (the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatments based on the severity of their condition).

          Again, I fail to see what that has to do with funding and insurance?

          … leaving people to die in corridors because they’ve arrived at a hospital they’re not covered by – in an ambulance.

          People dying in unfortunate circumstances happens in any system. I can agree that the situation in places such as the United States (certainly before recent changes) meant that this happened more often. I can further agree that using the funding model to regulate access to healthcare is clearly flawed.

          Your reply still leaves me struggling to understand your previous comment:

          Comment 4: … health insurance is a global evil whose practitioners should be executed for all they’ve done to modern medicine …

          No-one, as far as I can discover, thinks that using the insurance model to fund pensions is a bad idea. Providing we limit the use of the insurance model to funding healthcare – and spreading the costs of those less fortunate – I suspect we would agree.

          But confusing “global” insurance models (which is a meaningless phrase – funding models for healthcare are almost as diverse as the number of countries and territories recognised by the UN) with the ways in which that model is malignantly applied in some jurisdictions is counter-productive.

          What little I have learned persuades me that insurance models for funding social healthcare are the most popular for a reason – they work. Insurance models are efficient, effective and equal.

          You might argue that insurance can be extended by the well-off to extend access to elective procedures – and that this is unequal. I wouldn’t disagree. There are two things to say about this:

          • The number of rich individuals who can afford such extensions is a minuscule proportion of the population. I appreciate that this undermines the principle that humanism demands; that healthcare access should remain equal at all levels. But elective procedures are exactly that, and I can’t get excited about such a tiny loophole in the same way that I can’t get excited by someone having a three houses, each four times the size of mine.

          • In practice the vast majority of such extensions are funded by employers. I appreciate that this is not as simple as it sounds, but then I haven’t seen any better alternatives either.

          Also, you commented:

          … [Health Insurers'] favourite pastime is ratcheting up the costs to patients …

          British Health Insurers recently asked the Office of Fair Trading to look into the costs of healthcare. The conclusion was that the fault probably lies with providers, not insurers.

          … their second favourite being refusing to pay for necessary treatment …

          My work in this area reveals that insurance is generally used to fund elective procedures – not for necessary preventative medicine or emergency treatment. Again, caution is advisable, there are many models where the term insurance is misused. But it is, equally, not the majority case (let alone “global”) that the term medical insurance is so misused that it would constitute support for your bland assertions.

          … they’re never shy about finding excuses to screw people over …

          Like any insurance model, loss adjustments are added to policies. In Australia, even procedures that some might consider necessary are charged – even for those covered by the public Medicare fund. To characterise that as “to screw people over” is to apply anthropomorphism to an institution. Insurance companies are not “shy” and do not apply malice in exactly the same way that a National Health Service is not ‘caring’.

          In précis: Health insurance is, demonstrably, not evil.

          Peace.

    • In reply to #4 by Tintern:

      health insurance is a global evil

      No. But…. Substantially free free-market health insurance is pernicious and gamed by insurers and health providers alike for their mutual benefit. The Dutch healthcare system is substantially private in its infrastructure and all short term care provision is funded by obligatory private healthcare insurance. The system however is closely regulated so that those unlucky enough to be chronically ill or old or poor are not discriminated against. This is where the US must head to. Keep private by all means but regulate out the gaming, regulate in some fairness.

      A country’s investment in its healthcare system is entirely that, an investment that pays a dividend. We are happy to see our tax Euros spent, not only so that we may benefit one day (though we would be happier to pay and never to see that day), but spent, also, to make our environment happier, more liveable in, more functional and more reliable. I expect to see a good return on my tax investment, not this free-market fuckwittery of choice. I have invested a lot of my money in medical experts to figure out best practice on my behalf. They do a good job.

  3. They want the government to force insurance providers to pay for quack treatments, regardless of whether or not the treatments work. Any attempt to require evidence, they argue, amounts to discrimination.

    That’s tha funny thing about scientific methodolgy – It refutes nonsense and discriminates against the dishonest and incompetent!

    Could I suggest a slight ammendment to this.
    The government should require insurance providers to pay for legal costs to reclaim money from quacks whose treatments don’t work, and possibly to pay towards prosecuting them for fraud – Some claw-back could be arranged for insurers to be recompensed and compensated – with costs agaist the quacks, where prosecutions are successful. (A bit like no-win, no-fee legal claims).

  4. ” Show their greedy side ?!? “

    What other side do these people have? Their product is bunk and their intentions are unbridled lucre.

    If there is enough money in this it will stand regardless of it’s efficacy as medicine. .

  5. @Alan4discussion: “Do I take it that you are using medical services in the USA, where the price is roughly twice the price people pay in other deveoped countries but providing a poorer service – due to the rake-offs you mention?”
    No, Ireland but Ireland’s health service is gripped by the private insurance in the same way and its raging ambition is to be more like the American system despite the far more efffective and positive European models surrouding it. And it seems to be getting there every day. A former heatlh minister here proudly boasted that we are “closer to Boston than Berlin”. I also have friends far too acquainted with the system, or more the lack of access to it, in the USA>

    • In reply to #15 by Tintern:
      Interestingly I see this news item on UK services:-

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23860805

      Competition Commission: Private patients pay too much

      Most patients in UK private hospitals are paying more than they should for treatment because of a lack of local competition, an inquiry has found.

      More than 100 private hospitals around the country are in areas with little rival healthcare provision, says the Competition Commission (CC).

      Many of these hospitals are owned by three major groups, the CC said.

      It said the buying power of health insurance firms did not offset the hospitals’ strong position.

      About 80% of private patients fund their treatment through medical insurance, which is often paid for by their employers.

      Although prices charged by operators to insurers are set nationally, the commission said it believed that the lack of local choice pushed up premiums for all patients, because insurers had no option but to use the local hospital.

      “The lack of competition in the healthcare market at a local level means that most private patients are paying more than they should, either for private medical insurance or for self-funded treatment,” said the commission’s chairman, Roger Witcomb.

      ‘Market power’

      Hospital groups BMI, Spire and HCA had been “earning returns substantially and persistently in excess of the cost of capital”, the commission said.

      The two biggest health insurance firms, Bupa and AXA PPP, had achieved “significantly lower prices than the smaller insurers” and had “some countervailing buyer power, Bupa more than AXA PPP”.

      “However, no insurer has countervailing buyer power that can fully offset the market power of BMI, Spire and HCA,” the commission’s provisional findings said.

      The commission recommended moves to make more information available about the quality of hospitals’ services and the level of fees charged by consultants.

      It also suggested that operators owning a cluster of hospitals in one area should have to sell off some of them.

      So – having had an investigation into the situation – the predictable denials have been forthcoming!

      Responding to the commission, BMI said its findings were “based on flawed analyses of the reality of providing high quality private healthcare”.

      “We reject absolutely any assertion that BMI Healthcare and its hospitals exercise market power or that we make excess profits at the expense of patients.

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