It's no secret that mega-profit insurance companies need to be seriously disciplined. They deny us the care we need when it's needed most, drop our mothers' coverage when they are diagnosed with breast cancer, and even murder our children by spreadsheet -- yes, that's referring to you, CIGNA.
Unfortunately, though, our federal government failed to pass the robust public option necessary to, as President Obama repeatedly said, "keep the insurance companies honest."
As a result, mega-profit insurance company abuses continue: Aetna, for example, recently left cancer patients and pregnant women out to dry in North Carolina as it threatened to take its ball and go home in negotiations with the UNC Hospital System.
Because we don't have the support of our government in disciplining the mega-profit insurance companies, we will need to do the disciplining. Ten big ideas below the fold.
Did you know your mega-profit insurance company is actually required by most state laws to pay claims promptly, allow for an escalating series of repeals when claims are denied and generally treat you as a human being? Yup, with the way the folks at Aetna, CIGNA, WellPoint, United HealthCare and Humana generally behave, I wouldn't be surprised if you found the aforementioned shocking.
Because insurance companies have a moral, ethical and legal obligation to treat you with fairness, dignity and respect, there are a number of tools that we can use to discipline these, to borrow the word of the wonderful nyceve, bloodsuckers.
1.) Under the PPACA, you are entitled to an external, independent review of any appeals denied by the health insurer's independent appeals process. Demand these external appeals -- oh, and don't forget to demand an internal appeal in the first place. Even if it's something as small as a $5 prescription denied: appeal, appeal, appeal. Big-profit insurers are used to people backing down and not fighting -- if we all appealed all of their bullshit decisions, we would take a significant dent out of their profits...and morale.
2.) Report, report, report to your state insurance commissioner when your mega-profit insurance company disrespects and abuses you by denying a claim, delaying payment of a claim or refusing to respond to calls, emails and letters. Yes, this actually works and states will punish your mega-profit insurer with mega-sized fines. Aetna, for example, got nailed by New York for confusing explanation of benefit forms and delays in processing claims. This happened because a critical mass of patients and doctors complained about Aetna's bad behavior.
3.) Argue, argue. argue when you are on the phone with the insurance company bureaucrats. (Yes, I know you might feel bad being aggressive with a call center employee, but the reality is that these people are their foot soldiers and we may need to get "demanding" with the individuals on the front lines of the mega-profit insurance companies.) If someone refuses to answer your question, demand an explanation...or demand to speak to a supervisor. Be polite, but very assertive. If call center employees start getting pissed at their corporate overlords for stressful, painful phone calls from policyholders, they will start to demand changes in the way business is done. A good way to hold your mega-profit insurance company accountable for real answers is to use a speaker phone so that you can conduct other business while waiting for your mega-profit insurance carrier to get their act together.
4.) Advocate for single-payer when you are on the phone with your mega-profit insurance company. Seriously, say to the employee: you know, we wouldn't be having to go through this complicated bureaucratic mess if we had single-payer health care for all in this country. If the employee asks what that is, feel free to explain. Many front-line insurance company employees have no idea that there is a better system called single-payer care. They are brainwashed by their corporate overlords.
5.) Email press and media contacts at the big-profit insurance companies as an independent blogger or citizen. These contacts are all available online. Let these individuals know you detest the bad behavior of [enter name of mega-profit insurance carrier here] and that you are working hard to eliminate them with a strong single-payer campaign in your state.
6.) Organize peaceful non-violent protests outside the doors of your mega-profit insurance company's local offices. Don't block the doors or you will get arrested, but there is nothing illegal about chanting "Medicare for all" on the sidewalk outside CIGNA's Philadelphia headquarters. Feel free to distribute images of the people the mega-profit insurance company has abused, or in the case of CIGNA, murdered.
7.) Are you a famous lawyer? Consider a class-action lawsuit against one of the mega-profit carriers? The reality is that these companies are now so huge, so bureaucratic and so incompetently run that they are most likely engaging in actions violating the letter (or the spirit) of the law each and every day. Just search for "Aetna" or "CIGNA" online and you will read thousands of horror stories that demand court action -- unfortunately, for most Americans, the cost of admission to the judicial system is to great to fight back against corporate beasts.
8.) Are you a not-so-famous lawyer? Consider volunteering your services to victims of mega-profit insurance company atrocities in your own community. Just writing a letter with the "Esq" at the end to a mega-profit insurance company can cause them to "back off" in many cases. If the mega-profits can mail out thousands of intimidating and heartless denial letters, why not fight back as a lawyer by helping individuals who are in need of an intimidating letter themselves to get the health care they deserve?
9.) Whenever you witness a mega-profit insurance company atrocity in action, contact the local media (TV, radio and print) and write lots of letters to the editor. As our friend Wendell Potter states, insurance companies totally hate bad publicity...and so do their shareholders. Make every bad behavior a big deal in the media.
10.) Remember that woman who forced Bank of America to back down with her famous You Tube video "revolt"? Well, let's embarrass the hell out of the mega-profit insurance companies on You Tube and other media/social networking sites, too. Aetna Sucks is a good example of a Facebook campaign against a mega-profit insurer.
So, there are 10 ideas for things we can do NOW to discipline and fight back against mega-profit health insurance company abuses and atrocities. What are your ideas? How do you think we can discipline these beasts and make them feel the pain that we feel when we are treated with contempt and disrespect by them?
Oh, and remember that the ultimate way to make these bloodsuckers feel pocketbook pain is by committing to fight for real single-payer health care in America, like California One Care. The sooner that single-payer care becomes a real threat to their existence, the faster these mega-profit insurance companies will see their stock prices sink.