May 22, 2019
Yesterday's Washington Post article about Wendell Potter's testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee should come as no surprise to anyone who's dealt with health insurers. The former Cigna executive's message? Don't trust insurers. I don't think this is the bombshell that a lot of others seem to think it is. The idea that we should blindly trust any business is pretty naive. They are created to make a profit and short of that cease to exist. The problem with all insurers, however, is that consumers are at their mercy to a much greater degree than for most business transactions. And insurers know it. Indeed, they play on our vulnerabilties in their ad campaigns. Just think of their marketing: "like a good neighbor, State Farm is there." "You're in good hands with Allstate." They want us to know that they are there to protect us and we can trust them . Within ERISA the potential for abuse in the insurer/insured relationship is recognized and dealt with through that statute's fiduciary duty standards. A good argument can be made that there is nothing wrong with ERISA's language, only with the federal judiciary's refusal to enforce in a meaningful way those fiduciary standards.
It's nice to see an industry insider reminding Congress that we should be very wary of removing meaningful checks on insurers or gutting remedies for their misconduct. We need to provide in our healthcare reforms effective ways to ensure that insurers are held accountable when they overreach.
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