Friday, April 01, 2011

Wendell Potter on "Insurers’ Cynical Calculations on the Cost of Doing Business"

On his blog, Wendell Potter, former head of public relations for CIGNA, discussed big health insurance/ managed care organizations' attitudes toward paying financial penalties for wrong-doing:
Having served as head of PR for two of the country’s largest health insurers — CIGNA and Humana — I know from personal experience that such fines are not widely considered newsworthy.

Insurers know this, and so, annoying as being charged with breaking the law might be, they largely shrug off the fines and the threat of a day’s worth of bad publicity that occasionally accompany them. They are perfectly willing to risk being caught because they long ago realized that the fines are never severe enough to make them radically change the way they do business. Such a change would involve dealing more honestly with both their customers and the doctors who provide care to the people they insure.

We have frequently discussed the parade of legal settlements involving major health care organizations, including drug, device, biotechnology companies, and hospitals and health care systems as well as insurers and managed care organizations. We have repeatedly noted that fines or payments imposed on these organizations seem to have little deterrent effect. Now we have some documentation that this is true from someone who used to be in the belly of the beast.

So I get to repeat:  we will not deter unethical behavior by health care organizations until the people who authorize, direct or implement bad behavior fear some meaningfully negative consequences. Real health care reform needs to make health care leaders accountable, and especially accountable for the bad behavior that helped make them rich.


Afraid said...

Is that crickets I hear?

Anonymous said...

Beware the "lethal legs" of the cricket....

Anonymous said...

Negative consequences? Shouldn't a one in three medical error/injury rate in hospitals be consequential enough? Who paid for all of those errors and injuries? Will the money be paid back into the system?