What Insurance Companies Want Health Care to Look Like

August 2, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Last week, I received a mailing from United Health Care about my Health Savings Account.

The front page contained a very friendly letter with a nice green graphic urging me to check out my plan online. By logging into my account, it told me I could help estimate “out-of-pocket costs, potential tax savings and the future value of your account.”

It seemed friendly enough until I read at the bottom that they enclosed a Change in Terms and Conditions Notice and an Annual Privacy Notice.

The Change in Terms and Conditions Notice is one of those fine print documents only lawyers would love. What I got from this document was that, in certain situations, there would be additional new charges and that these charges would be very difficult to figure out when and in what situations they would apply.

The Change in Terms and Conditions Notice referred me to the prospectus for each mutual fund (more fine print) to determine when and in what situations there would be fees.

I spent twenty minutes coming to the conclusion that I would not be able to understand anything further than this in twenty minutes.

But I slogged on to page 3 because now I was suspicious.

Page 3 was the Privacy Policy. This seemed like a good thing. I don’t want my information given out without me knowing about it and I agreed with their statements:

  1. Your privacy is important to us
  2. We have developed policies and procedures in order to keep your information confidential and secure
  3. We restrict access to personal information to those employees and other parties who must use that information to provide services on our behalf


All of this sounded good until I saw an “Opt-Out Notice” at the bottom of the page. This notice informed me that OptumHealth Bank was going to give out my information to other 3rd party vendors unless I specifically told them not to.

I was glad I kept reading! You have to check a box saying “Please do not share my information with any affiliated or nonaffiliated third parties.”

This is the real catch of the letter. They put it on page 3 so you aren’t likely to notice it. And then they tell you, you have to “opt out” in order for them not to share your information (translation: sell it to other companies looking to market to you).

OptumHealth even goes so far as trying to scare you into thinking if you opt out, you will not reap the benefits of their largesse.

“If you do wish to exercise your right to opt out and limit our ability to keep you informed of beneficial products and services, please complete the attached form …”

And they don’t even give you an addressed stamped envelope. You have to provide your own envelope and stamp. Clearly, OptumHealth Bank does not want you to fill this out and return it.

OptumHealth Bank wants to make money by selling my name and information so other companies can better target market to me and they are making it very difficult for me to figure this out.

This reminds me of the current health care debate and all the money being poured into it by pharmaceutical interests, health insurance companies, and for-profit hospitals.

What they want is the ability to be able to dictate terms to consumers and make large profits. But no one would vote for this type of bill.

Similarly, everyone would opt out from Optum’s wonderful privacy plan if they said: “We want to sell your information to other companies and make more money off your information. BTW- There’s no real benefit to you.”

No matter how hard insurance companies try to spin it, remember that what they want from any health care reform bill is the ability to make more money.

  • They will say it is about more choice for you when it is about making money for them.
  • They will say it is about better quality care for you when it is about making money for them.
  • They will say it is about freedom for you when it is about making money for them.
  • They will say it will hurt small businesses when it is about making money for them.
  • They will even go so far as to say you will die if any changes are made because of the tremendous profits they are making.

So be careful of any health legislation that the insurance industry supports. It will likely not benefit you so much as it will them.

Send in your “opt out” notification. Tell your congressman that you support health care reform that will benefit people, not just the insurance industry. Tell them you support a public option.