Tony Soprano Versus the Health Insurance Mafia

As you all know, the FIRE economy – short for finance, insurance, and real estate – has been my latest hobby horse. Rest assured, I will not completely abandon race, immigration, and other topics that put Occident Invicta on the map. However, since I’ve already gone after finance and real estate/landlords, it’s insurance’s turn now! Never let it be said that I discriminate.

What actually motivated me to write this post was watching The Sopranos, believe it or not. For those not into HBO dramas, The Sopranos revolves around fictional New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano and his wiseguy lifestyle. Needless to say, wiseguys are infamous (and admired) for their predatory rackets and brutal tactics.

However, in terms of predatory behavior, wiseguys have nothing on America’s privatized healthcare cartel. Like the mafia, healthcare families demand their own “protection” fees. Those lucky enough to have insurance are compelled to pay increasingly higher premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket costs; and those who receive services from someone not in the family’s (ie. insurer’s) territory are penalized via balance billing. When the family actually does choose to take care of you, they do so very grudgingly. 

Just watch the clip below, and you’ll see what I mean (apologies for the poor video quality).

Man, not even alpha male mob boss Tony Soprano is safe from private health insurers’ penny pinching! Fortunately, Tony, despite his weakened condition, fights back. As he rightly argues, it’s appalling that his insurer is determined to rush him out of the hospital even though he’s barely recovered from a gunshot wound; it’s especially disgusting in light of all the money his insurance has taken from him over the years.

But the show’s creators weren’t content to let that one scene lay bare the sheer lunacy of America’s broken healthcare system. In another scene from the same episode, Tony and his crew extort a paramedic into coughing up 2 grand. While wiseguys don’t need a good reason to extort someone, it turns out that the paramedic rifled through Tony’s wallet. Tony claimed that the paramedic was stealing from him, while the beleaguered paramedic insisted that he was only following guidelines and looking for Tony’s proof of insurance. This prompts Tony to sarcastically invoke Nuremberg – the classic example of “just following orders” producing great evil.

Obviously, demanding insurance isn’t the same as exterminating people in death camps. Nevertheless, there is something sick (no pun intended) about the paramedic’s actions. Rather than devoting his attention to a severely wounded man in dire need of help, his first thought is to look for Tony’s insurance card. As Michael Hudson would say, it really is your money or your life. None of this iniquity even takes into account all of the administrative waste. Just think of the people at the hospital’s billing office who are paid to overcharge people like Tony Soprano; or the claims specialists at Tony’s health carrier who devise creative methods to deny full coverage. But regardless of all the waste that comes with employing glorified paper pushers, the healthcare profiteers always come out ahead.

Having worked at an insurance brokerage firm and handled various claims cases, believe me when I tell you that both medical providers and health insurers are out to exact as much tribute as possible. For example, one case I handled involved a poor soul who visited the ER. While the hospital was in-network, the ambulance that transported him wasn’t, causing him to get balance billed. However, even if a facility or provider is contracted, carriers can – and will – find an excuse to deny coverage for any major service. I once had to tell an Anthem member that his insurance would not cover a $20,000 (give or take) treatment at Stanford Hospital for his severely disabled daughter. Apparently, Anthem didn’t deem such a service “medically necessary.” The absurdity of some distant bureaucrat (yes, libertarians, bureaucrats also reside in the private sector) presuming to know what’s best for another man’s sick daughter speaks for itself. I also assisted countless people who went in for routine preventive care, only to then have fees tacked on because of how the service was coded by the doctor’s office. Anyway, I think you get the point.

Now, keep in mind, most of our company’s clients were prestigious tech firms, and their employees often made around six figures. Even employees who didn’t earn such high salaries often had their employers pay for their entire premiums (provided it was an employee only plan). Nevertheless, I still had to assist countless agitated and overcharged employees. Therefore, I can only imagine what it’s like for the poor fucks who aren’t lucky enough to have employer-sponsored health insurance or Medi-Cal.

Ultimately, the only way to resolve our healthcare mess is for the US to evolve into a 1st world country and provide universal healthcare. The time has come for America’s privatized healthcare monstrosity to sleep with the fishes.

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