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Op-ed: Patients aren’t to blame for increasing health-insurance premiums

I read with interest “Health-insurance hikes hit double
digits again,” by Christina Olenchek, from the May 30 edition. I am a local
physician, and I thought I would enlighten you and your readers.

I read with interest “Health-insurance hikes hit double
digits again,” by Christina Olenchek, from the May 30 edition. I am a local
physician, and I thought I would enlighten you and your readers.

“The population is aging …”

Remember that as many insurance companies’ members are
getting older, plenty of new young persons are becoming members of any one
health-insurance plan. In addition to that, all senior citizens or persons over
65 years of age are on Medicare, unless they are still working for an employer
who provides insurance. This means they are no longer part of the
consumer-based health-insurance companies’ plans and, therefore, should not
affect the cost of your premium, as Michael Fiaschetti would like you to

“… more people are using expensive injectable drugs …”

As a physician, I can honestly say I am not sure what he is talking
about. There are injectable drugs that are used to treat rheumatoid arthritis
(1 percent of the population), Crohn’s disease (seven cases per 100,000),
hepatitis C (0.5-2 percent of U.S.
citizens), multiple sclerosis (0.5-1 person per 1,000) and cancers (most common
in people over 65 years of age) to name a few of the most common conditions
requiring injectables. The percentage of the population with these conditions
is very low. Most persons with hepatitis C contracted the illness from drug
abuse (60 percent of those with the condition) and generally are not members of
any private, non-medical assistance insurance company. As an internist, I can
tell you that cancers occur most frequently in our oldest patients. These
people are usually on Medicare.

It is also worth noting that prescription-drug coverage is
usually a cost that can be separated from any insurance plan, which means it
should not affect the cost of a health-insurance plan that does not include
prescription-drug coverage.

If Michael Fiaschetti is talking about insulin as an
expensive injectable drug, this is a relative expense. It is true more and more
of the population has diabetes, but it is also true that most of these people
are, once again, on Medicare and not with private insurance companies. Insulin
is also a very inexpensive drug (well under the cost of a tank of gas for a
one-month supply).

Vaccines may be something else he is referring to when he
says injectable drugs. In that case, I should tell you that I have insurance
companies who pay me less for vaccines than I purchased them for at wholesale
from the manufacturer with a discount for paying my bill early. Can you think
of any other industry where you are buying inventory at below wholesale price
and selling it for less than the below wholesale price you paid for the it?

“…. and insurers’ payments to health care providers have
increased, he said.”

Ahh … as insurance premiums go up 10 percent or more each
year (mine went up 20 percent for the same plan last year and this year goes up
23 percent), your physician sees virtually none of that increase, as Michael
Fiaschetti would lead you to believe. Physicians are not being reimbursed more.
Since fall 2006, when I opened my practice, I have watched almost every payment
for each service I provide decrease by dollars and/or cents with every
insurance company and Medicare. Some services have stayed virtually the same.
Those that did increase did so, in most cases, by less than $1. This doesn’t
even reflect inflation, which if factored in, would show a negative increase in
every single service I provide as a primary-care physician.

The reasons Michael Fiaschetti of Highmark gave for the
exorbitant cost of health insurance point the finger at
members/consumers/”patients,” as I prefer to call them, and physicians. A
smokescreen if ever I saw one. Never does he entertain stockholders, CEOs,
advertising, bonuses and other corporate glut as a possible and probable source
of increased cost.

Dr. Christine M. Daecher is a physician with Adult Medicine
& Aesthetics in Lemoyne.

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