Good morning ... Here’s a fun question, courtesy of Cher: What’s a movie you know to be objectively awful, yet still can’t help but love? Share your secret shames!
Health insurance companies are paying for reams of personal data about us, their customers — where we live, whether we pay our bills on time, even our social media posts and online shopping habits. Which is, undeniably, kind of scary.
Driving the news: ProPublica had a very thorough story yesterday on what insurers are collecting, how they're collecting it, and what they're doing with it. But some of the responses to that story were missing a few pieces, so I think it's worth a closer look.
How it works, via ProPublica:
There are good uses for some of this data, at least theoretically. Factors like poverty and education do affect our health, and to the extent insurers are truly interested in keeping their patients healthy, knowing who's at risk is the only way to target those resources effectively.
But: The obvious fear is that insurers will use this information to jack up people's rates if they seem high-risk — even based on generalizations about tangential data.
But but: There's almost no market right now where they can do that. It's illegal for employer-based plans and individual plans, like those sold through the Affordable Care Act, to discriminate against people because of their health.
But, but, but: Such a market is about to open up, with the Trump administration's expansion of short-term health plans, which are allowed to turn away high-risk customers.
The bottom line: “No one gave anyone permission to do this," a former industry official told ProPublica.
Emergency-room doctors in Georgia are suing Anthem over its policy of not paying for ER visits it deems unnecessary. They say the policy violates the Affordable Care Act, as well as other federal laws and even civil rights protections.
The issue: Anthem has told its customers in six states that it will no longer be paying for trips to the emergency room for conditions that aren’t an emergency.
What they’re saying: Georgia ER doctors say Anthem violated those requirements by using a different standard and because of the way it discouraged patients from relying on the ER.
Why it matters: This back-and-forth is a good example of why health care is so hard.
UnitedHealth Group’s stock fell by almost 3% yesterday even though it had larger-than-expected profits and raised its outlook for the rest of the year, Axios' Bob Herman reports. Stocks of other health insurers also traded down because one of UNH’s numbers, tied to medical costs, was off by a hair.
Between the lines: Investors are expecting a wildly profitable quarter for health insurers because industry surveys show hospital admissions and doctor visits are stagnant at best — which presumably means more money for insurers.
By the numbers: UnitedHealth's $56.1 billion of revenue in Q2 was 12% higher than last year, and $2.9 billion of net profit was 28% higher.
Our thought bubble: Don’t worry about Wall Street’s reactions.
Laws that were initially designed to prevent corruption and self-dealing in the health care system are standing in the way of broadly popular quality improvements, two former Health and Human Services secretaries write in an op-ed in The Hill.
Why it matters: There's a growing consensus that these laws need to change, and it will only continue to grow with bipartisan support from the people who have seen the measures' limitations up close.