Drop In The Bucket

So UnitedHealth Group is out $50 million because it got caught overcharging millions of people for health care. From MSNBC:

The New York attorney general’s office launched an investigation after receiving hundreds of complaints about Oxford Insurance and its parent company, UnitedHealth Group, which claims to rely on “independent research from across the health care industry” to determine reimbursement rates. In actuality though, it relies on Ingenix, a research firm owned by UnitedHealth Group.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo says Ingenix has been manipulating the numbers so insurance companies pay less.

Despicable, right?

One of my colleagues – Julie – had this response:

My thoughts on the United Health settlement.

Fifty million dollars may seem like a lot to those of us who are being crushed by thousand-dollar deductibles.

But a giant like United Health Group probably looks at this sum as part of the cost of doing business. (How much did they profit from these underpayments and leaving their enrollees with the bill?) United Health has been racking up fines and settlement payments in the thousands and even millions across the country. And still they had profits of more than $4 billion in 2007.

With companies like United Health running roughshod over the minimal rules we have — and racking up fines like traffic tickets — shouldn’t we have a public alternative to private insurance companies?

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