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Guest: Health insurance companies’ next great idea

BY RYAN DRYSDALE - GUEST OPINION | APRIL 02, 2010 7:30 AM

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Now that the historic health-care bill is through Congress and signed, the business model of the health-insurance sector is going to see some changes.

No longer (ideally) will health-care companies be able to pad their bottom lines by insuring the healthy and dropping the sick or those with pre-existing conditions. This practice allowed them to take money from those less likely to become sick and not spend money on those who do become sick, thus increasing profits.

Congress — or the Democratic caucus — and President Obama have shut many of these and other loopholes. What should the health-insurance sector do to make money now? Probably scheme other ways, but here are some idealistic ideas.

Let’s try prevention.

As the adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Instead of spending exorbitant amounts of money on treating cancer, focus on often-ignored preventative measures.

Ban tanning beds, which recent studies have proven drastically increase the chances of getting skin cancer. Quit using plastic water bottles (they can contain Bisphenol A, which can leach into the water and thus the body). Side with antismoking legislation, and become a voice to eliminate all the other known carcinogens in the world from the products we use and consume.

If the chemicals Iowa and Midwestern farms use on their fields create the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico, what are those chemicals doing to us here at home? Or to our beloved Iowa River flowing right through campus?

Reducing the risk of cancer, in this example, would ultimately save insurance companies money and should be the new target of insurance companies. Lower the risk. Lower the incidence of cancer. Save money.

Dance Marathon raises millions of dollars each year to provide for children with cancer. No one can reasonably argue these children are not deserving of these amenities. Millions of dollars are poured into treating cancer, but an organization such as the University of Iowa Environmental Coalition, which directly and indirectly seeks to mitigate environmental risks receives little if any money or attention.

The more focus on eliminating cancer-risk factors, the less money needed to spend on treatments — and the less suffering endured by children or any person stricken with cancer or any environmentally influenced aliment. Obviously, cancer has many origins, such as genetics, but eliminating the environmental aspect is logical.

But when will the focus include more non-genetic, environmental causes of cancer that are seemingly ignored?

In a hopeful world, the health-insurance Ponzi scheme has been debunked, or is beginning to be debunked. In a hopeful world, a health-insurance company would work to insure our health, which includes preventing the risks to our health. In a hopeful world, we can find and use that ounce of prevention to save that pound.

In a hopeful world, Obama and our elected officials will work for us.

Ryan Drysdale is a UI senior.


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