The health reform bills currently making their way through Congress propose banning insurance companies from certain forms of discrimination–chiefly, denying them the right to reject people with pre-existing conditions. But this could simply lead the companies to institute more devious means of achieving the same end. David Hilzenrath writes in the Washington Post:
If insurers are prohibited from openly rejecting people with preexisting conditions, they could try to cherry-pick through more subtle means. For example, offering free health club memberships tends to attract people who can use the equipment, says Paul Precht, director of policy at the Medicare Rights Center.
Being uncooperative on insurance claims can chase away the chronically ill. For people who have few medical bills, it is less of a factor, said Karen Pollitz, research professor at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute.
And to avoid patients with costly, complicated medical conditions, health plans could include in their networks relatively few doctors who specialize in treating those conditions, said Mark V. Pauly, professor of health-care management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
The lesson of this story: America’s health insurance companies have a pre-existing condition called greed, and no amount of timid reform or toothless regulation is likely to cure it.