The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
Monday, June 8th, 2009
Alchemists of yore wasted a lot of time searching for
the formula to turn dross into gold. Their modern
equivalents have finally discovered the secret, although
we no longer call them alchemists. Nowadays they go
by "health insurance executives." They get rich by
converting your ill-health into profits, an alchemical
miracle if ever there was one.
It's perfectly legal and like every brilliant con,
beautifully simple. We pay thousands of dollars a year
in health insurance premiums in return for the insurer's
promise to pay out many more thousands if we get sick.
If we stay healthy, the insurer keeps our money as pure
profit. The real beauty of the scheme is that even if we
get sick the insurance company still profits, simply by
refusing to pay up.
Of course the insurer doesn't admit to refusing to pay
the pharmacy, doctor, hospital, or ambulance bills.
Instead they'll insist the claim was incorrectly filed. Or
that the medicine is not in their "formulary." Or that the
doctor doesn't know what she's talking about, never
mind her being the world's expert on the subject,
because the insurer has determined we don't need that
operation after all. Or that the condition isn't covered,
or that it is covered but pre-dated the policy, or that it
would be covered if only we'd known in advance we
were going to be rushed to the emergency room and
had given our insurer ample warning. Or that, tee hee,
silly us – that last premium payment was short by a
nickel and so the policy was canceled, never mind that
we've been faithfully paying the premiums for twenty
years. So we're not in fact covered for anything at all.
Lest the truth of the foregoing be doubted, the
American Journal of Medicine just released a new study
showing that in 2007, two-thirds of bankruptcies were
related to medical expenses; of those bankrupt
households, four-fifths had health insurance.
All this obstructionism, profitable though it is, doesn't
come without a cost. That's the major reason why
thirty-three cents out of every dollar we spend on health
care in the U.S. is for administrative expenses. Not to
worry though, because most of the cost is borne by us:
we pay dearly to deny ourselves the medical expense
coverage for which we pay dearly. And we consider
those old alchemists delusional!
The alchemists, though perfectly harmless, were often
tossed in dungeons or burned at the stake by political
and religious authorities made uneasy by their seeming
potential to destabilize the status quo. Our modern
alchemists by contrast enjoy the authorities' strongest
protection. Just read page eighteen of the Sunday New
York Times, or today's lengthy Wall Street Journal
editorial. You'll learn all about the peril posed by the
prospect of a government insurance plan that would
compete with the private ones. Being in the business of
paying the costs of our illnesses instead of profiting
from them, the government plan would have a totally
unfair cost advantage. In a word, it would be cheaper.
Okay, two words: enormously cheaper. Why, such a
plan would bankrupt the health insurance industry
instead of bankrupting us! Anyone have a problem with
©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2009
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A NOTE TO READERS ***Update***
Another three week plus hiatus, from April 30th until May 23rd, again
due to Yahoo Geocities dismal service.
There was nothing new at The Nossiter Net between March 3rd and
April 26th, 2007, nearly eight weeks. The reason: tech sabotage.
Yahoo Geocities, the host for this site, denied access for the entire
period. At one point, they even managed to lose all the files. In many
discussions with Yahoo staff, no clear explanation was forthcoming.
No one seemed able to fix the problem. Ruling out the possibility of
Dubbya’s revenge, I finally wrote to Mr. Terry Semel, Chairman and
CEO of Yahoo! Inc and described the ordeal the page had undergone
since the beginning of March. A week later, a helpful Yahooo engineer
named Jason called. He had my letter before him. Though he couldn’t
do the repairs on on the spot, he promised a fix by the next day. That
was April 26th, nearly two months after shutting me down in the first
The Nossiter Net apologizes, which is more than I can say for Yahoo
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