Monday, May 01, 2006

Masters of the Obvious

Perhaps it’s just Monday Madness, but there seem to be an awful lot of seriously moronic articles coming out of the insurance industry today. And as if we didn’t already know this, the New York Times (no less) clues us in on the latest:
In three quarters of a dozen states, for example, Blue Cross has more than half the business, according to The Gray Lady. This has apparently shocked legislators (who have, of course, their own deluxe health care coverage), who believe that the answer is, wait for it, Association Health Plans.
Now, Bob and I have blogged on these before, so I won’t rehash why AHP’s are no panacea, either. But the point here is that such plans are, ultimately, insured by a carrier. Now, if one particular carrier has already darn near cornered the market without the help of the gummint, why would a sensible person believe that it won’t continue to so so, and gobble up the AHP market (such as it is) to boot?
Of course it would.
Frankly, I’m none too pleased that any one carrier has that much market share, but more government intervention isn’t the answer (cf: Ma Bell). In a free market such as ours, it behooves other carriers to do what they can to make themselves more attractive.
And, of course, it’s up to agents to make a more concerted effort to “push” other carriers, even when (or maybe because) this requires a bit more work on our part.
Ultimately, though, it’s the marketplace that has the final say. If employers who buy group plans, and individuals who buy, well, individual plans want to see more competition, they have to get past the “price is everything” mentality. Granted, BX tends to have the most extensive networks in their markets, but others are not too far behind.
And, of course, the story has to include mention of the (suspect) 45 million uninsured. What, pray tell, has that to do with the subject at hand? Ah, just as I thought.
As an agent, I’m concerned that the marketplace keeps shrinking; and it’s not just health carriers: there are fewer and fewer (quality) disability and long term care insurance carriers extant, as well. I believe that competition is good: it helps drive down costs, encourages innovation, and gives the consumer more choices. So the shrinking pool of carriers is troubling.
The only thing more troubling would be the government “fixing” it.
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