A couple of months back I went to the pharmacy to pick up the asthma medication that I’ve been taking for years – the cost of which is $50 a month, and that’s with a Cadillacesque, employer-provided health insurance plan.  Oddly, though, on this visit the price was $75.  After my inquiry as to the price increase, the pharmacist told me to contact the insurance provider.  So I did.  Actual conversation:

curv:  So I noticed the cost of X drug went up by 50% and I wanted to know why.

customer service rep: Sir, when a generic is released on the market, we increase the price of the brand name drug in order to encourage use of the generic.

curv: OK, fair enough.  What’s the generic so I can tell my doctor to write a scrip.

rep: Hold on, let me check…[two minutes later].  There is no generic.

But they kept the raised rate of $75 anyway.

In the annals of the great crimes of the health insurance industry, this is very, very, very small potatoes.  I’ll live after all.  But it just gives a little flavor of the type of hubris and disregard for their customers that have become the stock and trade of an industry that knows it has the government by Ben Nelson’s balls.  There’s a certain je ne sais quoi in their gratuitous “fuck yous.”

A more serious recent example (though there is hope this move will be thwarted by lawmakers/existing law – UPDATE: score one for the little guy):

Amid a national debate on how to make the healthcare system friendlier and more accessible, and as millions of people grapple with the loss of jobs and homes, what does insurance heavyweight Blue Shield of California do?

It decides to take a key benefit away.

The company has notified individual policyholders that their coverage could be immediately dropped if they miss a single payment — or so it seems. Blue Shield says in a letter to customers that they can reapply for insurance, but with potentially higher premiums and stricter conditions. This represents a significant change from Blue Shield’s former practice of giving customers two special grace periods annually to make up for missed payments without any change to coverage or premiums.

And, again, that travesty would only apply to the people lucky enough to have health insurance in the first place (and the ability to overpay for it, one late payment notwithstanding).  And for the rest?  You’re screwed.  Sorry.  By a quirk of our best system of government ever™, a super majority is required in the significantly undemocratic body in our bicameral Congress in order to pass legislation.  This gives corporate America too many veto points.  It’s easy. 

The uninsured will get some weakly subsidized mandate to buy private insurance from companies whose profit-maximizing mission it is to screw you over when you need it most.  And it’s not like the public is going to make the corporate whores in the Senate pay for their prostitution.  As Brad recently posted from a comment somewhere:

Where i come from, The Netherlands, which is far from perfect, i pay 125 Euro’s for full coverage. Dentists and pre-existing conditions included. I can have a television at my bed and a minibar if i want to, but that’ll cost me extra. We have 6 or 7 big insurance companies here who facilitate this and who are bound by government rules on maximum charges and minimum coverage. It works fine, there’s no deficit created and everybody is fully covered. Besides that there’s a government subsidy for everyone who doesn’t earn enough to pay for the premiums.

We’re a democracy, with politicians, which are to some degree polarized into left and right, but everybody agrees we need good healthcare. If our people are denied that, we go out onto the streets and make known that we disagree.

It’s that simple.

Yeah, they would raise hell and demand that the government respond to the citizens rather than the wealthy at the expense of the citizens (with the expense being death of course).  Because they’re not completely batshit insane as a polity.

And in America?  We have tea party protesters driven into a frothing rage, taking to the streets in order to…protest against the government stepping in and fixing the health insurance debacle for their benefit.  That’s it in a nutshell.  Americans protest with all their might in order to preserve the right to get fucked over by the insurance industry.  Because, socialism.

Hell, even the uninsured are evenly divided on the question of whether or not they would be better off with insurance if the icky government is involved.

What a weird place this is.