Friday, July 31, 2009

The perils of privacy

As the debate on health care continues to unfold, we're hearing increasing amounts of concern (some of it bordering on lunacy) on the Right due to their fear of anything that the big, bad government might get its grubby little hands on.

This made me think about comparing apples to apples. The reason why conservatives can get all bent out of shape over the bills being developed in congress now is because the government has an obligation to expose its bills in public. The government's business is our business, so we, the people, get to comment, protest or agree with what we're seeing. This very transparency creates political energy, which directly evolves the bills in progress.

This is what is called democracy. Ain't it great?

Let's now look at the comparison: back when non-profit health plans started becoming for-profit, and health insurance transitioned into "managed care." When that reform was happening, it was being run by private industry. Nobody got to comment on the strategy or plan. And the public was not privy to the details outlining all the ways they planned on profiting off of our health. Nobody was aware of the magic number CFOs were telling CEOs that was the economic value of a customer's life. Yet, these discussions must have happened because if you're in the business of selling health insurance, you're most certainly doing big-time actuarial stuff to ensure you're turning a consistent profit and healthy margins.

So, what's the difference here? That the big, bad untrustworthy government is required to share with we, the people, the health care plans they're developing -- in progress as well as when they're fully complete. Meanwhile those private firms that we trust now with our health care insurance aren't required to divulge anything to us in terms of their detailed business plans because, well, they're businesses.

The end result is that this very transparent system that is designed to serve the people is being demonized by the Right, and the very opaque, profit-driven system we have today is seen by many as a holy grail that we dare not touch or threaten with a more transparent, government-based solution.

It all makes you wonder how the debate would have evolved if the same level of transparency was required when managed care was being devised in the early 1970s...