COMMENTS: Medical-Industrial Complex

Following yesterday's Investigation into cherry-picking by health insurance companies when deciding which individuals to cover, Armen Keteyian now looks at the treatment of those who managed to find coverage. His second Investigation zeroed in on Milwaukee-based Assurant Health, an insurer that stand accused of acting in bad faith, refusing to pay claims by finding non-existent pre-existing conditions. Keteyian offered the example of Todd Smith, a 54-year-old children's book illustrator, who was screened for possible angina three years ago and was assured by a doctor that he "did not have any sort of cardiac related illness." When he had a heart attack, Assurant refused to pay $40,000 in hospital bills citing as "pre-existing" the very condition that prompted the negative diagnosis. Assurant assured Keteyian that its procedures are "fair, equitable and consistent with state laws and industry standards."

For NBC, Tom Costello filed an In Depth report on Minute Clinics, the chain of discount clinics based in drugstores and operated by nurse practitioners. For $60-or-so per visit, they diagnose and treat basic infections. The chain has locations at CVS, Wal-Mart, Target, Walgreen's and Rite-Aid, Costello reported, with the tie-in that the patient can fill a prescription "just ten feet away." Their fees are undercutting physicians and in some states, citing a lack of thoroughness and continuity of care, "doctors are pushing for laws" to regulate them.


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