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Want to hear my definitions of "insurance fraud”? I'll tell you anyway.

Insurance fraud is when an HMO sells you a policy at an exorbitant rate and then finds all manner of ways to frustrate your pursuit of benefits.

Insurance fraud is when an HMO impedes access to procedures and specialists by requiring further "review" or "investigation.”

Insurance fraud is when an HMO denies coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Insurance fraud is when, to demolish any chance one might have of effectively communicating requests or complaints, an HMO deliberately hires morons to staff its customer service department.

Finally, insurance fraud is when an HMO not only plays these games but also joins with other HMOs to mount lobbying and advertising campaigns against the development of alternative health insurance systems.

A subversive I may be, but I've never been of the militant variety. When the SDS was blowing up banks in the early '70s, I was expressing my displeasure with the establishment by intentionally omitting zip coces—that'll jam their gears!

And, however grudgingly, I‘ve come over time to accept capitalism as a permanent reality. A given.

But this managed care business, which is to say, capitalism of a blatantly predatory stripe, is making me ponder actions way off my normal spectrum.

I’m finding it increasingly difficult to sit still for a category of capitalism in which people demonstrably unqualified to participate in a free market economy routinely commit what amount to acts of violence against their customers. (Messing as they are with other people's very lives, you have to wonder how these HMO creeps were brought up, what kind of parents they had.)

Again, I'm not coming from an anti-capitalist agenda here. My problem is strictly with people for whom capitalism is too intoxicating a system, who get much too giddy when they use it. These people need to be discouraged from persisting and, considering the damage they do, by any means necessary.

Of course, much as I'd like to, I could never dispatch each and every HMO administrator to his local ICU all by myself. I'd need help, and on a broad scale. But the prospect of getting such help is dim. The vast majority of us, after all, are reluctant to so much as question, let alone rise against, even the ugliest manifestations of a broader system that promises every American a piece of the serious action—and this despite how false that promise is for all but a relatively few, or how destructive may be the indignities our belief in it obliges us to suffer. Most of us remain willfully stupid in this regard (which, in another context is one of the reasons the Enron scumbags who amputated their employees' futures are still alive).

In fact, most Americans (including the majority of the 43 million who go without insurance because they can't afford the premiums), disdain even the civilized alternative of a not-for-profit, government-operated health care system. It apparently hasn't occurred to them that there's no significant risk to capitalism in this solution. We've already got "socialized" institutions in this country—police and fire departments, for example—that hardly infringe on our freedom to take advantage of one another. Even a few more would still leave us with plenty of opportunities to put one over on our fellow man. (And the notion that dealing with a government bureaucracy would somehow be more brutal than dealing with Aetna, Prudential or Oxford, well, that's a joke, isn't it?)

So what’s left to do when revolt is no more in the offing than government intervention is?

Unfortunately, beyond fantasizing that our growing population of serial killers (folks who’ve made it clear that accumulating money isn’t their first priority) will develop a sense of civic responsibility to go with their skills and proclivity, I haven’t come up with much. Certainly nothing that promises more than the smallest of rewards at the price of considerable personal sacrifice.

I’m speaking of getting sick a lot; using, you know, the hell out of my policy. By constantly contracting illnesses that require extended hospitalization, frequent doctor visits and enormous quantities of pharmaceuticals, I’d have the satisfaction of at least putting a dent in an HMO's profits.

Yeah, I know. But I like the pharmaceuticals part and it would be a step up from omitting zip codes.

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The following comments are for "Redefining Insurance Fraud"
by Robert Levin

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