Posted on 08 April 2011.
Should it be considered unethical to participate in shareholdings of Cigarette companies since tobacco is attributed to causing cancer? Is it against religious beliefs of Jews, Christians and Muslims to participate in Pork and alcohol industries? Holy Books forbid it? My answer to both the above questions is an unequivocal YES. On the same premise it is also unethical and immoral for the Health Insurance Companies to benefit from miseries of sick and in some cases dying human beings. I believe it is our moral duty to campaign against such businesses that profit from human suffering.
Tradition and Culture develops into Laws, Morals and Ethos:
We have had this debate going for a long time; what is right and what is wrong when viewed in the context of morality, ethics and legality. Some of us feel very strongly against it, some take it in stride.
Those who closely follow their religious, ethical and moral teachings would not invest in interest bearing deposits or pig and alcohol related (Haram or Non-Kosher) food businesses. In the last few decades the ethical dilemma has been stretched into the tobacco industry, which causes lung diseases including cancers and hence considered to be morally wrong to participate in industries that are likely to harm mankind or to that matter any living being, since they all are the creation of God Almighty.
Animal lovers have organized themselves in “societies for prevention of cruelty” to soothe their conscience and tell the world it is unfair to treat the living being cruelly or kill them unnecessarily. Most religions, on which almost all ethos and cultural philosophies are based, also teach this.
There has been hot and high profile debates concerning dog fights, cock and snake fights based on the same principle. We have discussions even on the plight of chicken being fattened with hormones for human consumption, and kept in compacted spaces in poultry farms. And very rightly so, we should respect every living thing and not harm them. This is only humane.
Morality, Ethics and Legality of Health Insurance Profits:
But here is the human paradox. While we are touched by and are remorseful of the treatment that is meted out to birds and animals, we seem to remain less concerned to human suffering in many instances. Except of course in the developed and rich countries of the world such as US and Europe where measures are in place to provide food, shelter and clothing for their needy citizens and to be followed by universal education and necessary health care. However, with best possible intentions, it is a fact that even in such rich countries and nations some human beings die of some curable diseases. And this is highly regrettable that rich nations should allow its citizens to die from curable diseases because he or she cannot afford to buy the treatment.
Health Insurance companies in USA:
Unfortunately that has been the state of affair in one of the richest country; USA because of long overdue health care reforms. We hope this situation will change when these reforms come into effect. However, an indirect pressure on common citizen still remains potently hurting their other affairs of life; namely the cost of the health insurance.
Before the reforms, various statistics published reported the adverse effect of this high cost of insurance and how it has kept a large number of Americans uninsured. That situation has unfortunately not been addressed in these reforms because of the vested interest of health insurance companies. We are at the same time zone as we once were with regards to cigarette industry, when no one could talk about them, but now legally no cigarette can be sold without a clear warning form surgeon general on each packet. Same with alcohol industry, which got prohibition removed some years ago. These industries have one common denominator and that is their objective to optimize their profit from every possible avenue including the suffering of human beings.
Not many of us know that USA is the only country in the world where health insurance companies are allowed to make profits for their share holders from the premiums paid by insured. This model of health insurance provision was started in Germany back in 1891 by way of contribution of employers and employees and such funds managed by a health insurance company. This model is still the most popular all over the world and USA is also following it. However, there is a large difference in the way these insurance companies work all over the world and those in USA.
Whereas, health insurance companies everywhere in the world are “not for profit” entities, the US companies are “for profit” entities. This means these insurance companies are owned by share holders and they make profit from the premiums that are paid by the insured. Such profits constitute as much as one fifth (almost 20%) of the premiums. Additionally since the executives of these companies make such handsome profits for the shareholders, they are also generously compensated with big bonuses. This is what we commonly describe as “I scratch your back and you scratch my back” situation. No other country in the world has such insurance companies and their executives making profits from the premiums paid by insured. Every country with “not for profit” health insurance system hence uses 100% of the premium money for the benefit of the insured, which is the real purpose. Unfortunately our ingenious capitalist system has created a business and a profit model out of the human sufferings.
This is obviously wrong to the insured that have paid premiums in advance with a hope that they will get the services in return when needed. They do get such services, but at that point in time as much as more than 20% has been skimmed off by the share holders and executives of the health insurance companies. Aside from this as much as more than 5% is spent on executive bonuses, and unnecessary expenses like having a big army of personnel to find ways to refuse the claims of the insured and his/her providers, like Hospitals, Doctors, Lab and X-Ray services. Hence the insured receive at least 25% less in return in the shape of services for the money paid in advance. Sometime they are totally refused such return of services for one or the other flimsy reason by the functionaries of the health insurance companies to ensure and fatten the bottom line of their company. In fact almost all these insurance companies have a troop of people assigned to do the work of refusal as often as is possible, not only for the insured but for their service providers like Labs, X-rays, Hospitals etc. It may certainly be good for their profits and perhaps it may be necessary to ascertain the legitimacy of the bills and claims, but it causes a lot of problems and psychological commotion to the insured. And all this “refusal staff” are also an additional expense at the cost of the insured’s benefit, which is reduced by as much as the expenses are made on this account
No other country in the world has such a farce of unfriendly practice particularly directed to someone who is paying money. Worse still this mockery of the pay-master is being practiced in open and under protection of law, which has been promoted by the vested interests. In comparison to such travesty, in some of the countries where this system exists, of course through the “not for profit” insurance companies, there are advertisements promotions by them to compete with each other, as to how quickly they are ready to pay the reimbursement of payment made to insured by the company, or to the service provider that they have contracted with, to supply such services when needed by the insured without delay or hindrance.
With the passage of the Health reforms and its becoming a law now, the insurance companies in USA are still unfortunately armed with a lot of clout with which they are likely to continue their wrong doing under the protection of law through their lobbying practices. We must have further reforms to bring in “not for profit” companies as soon as possible to compete with these mal-practicing insurance companies.
Let us campaign against such unethical practices:
One of the simplest way will be to campaign against the investment into such companies which thrive on the sufferings of their insured patients, maiming them and sometime killing them by refusing the treatment that they have paid for in advance with a hope that they will receive their help when needed. Instead they get refused, their providers are not paid their full work’s worth of money, sometime they are cut off from their treatment leaving them high and dry, only to make profits for the share holders, which is their fiscal but secondary responsibility after the primary responsibility to the patients who have aid in advance.
We all must try and remove ourselves from such sham practices which have been made legit by vested interest groups, and campaign to stop these wicked practices of these companies to make profits for their share holders at the expense of their primary and legal responsibilities to their patients. We need your support to be able to do this in a big way. Please respond by spreading these ideas to as many people as you can and create a momentum for this.