Hospitals Mining Data for Privately Insured Patients

by Admin on February 10, 2012

in Medicare, News, Patients, Payers, Providers

Every once in a while I find that America’s acclaimed free market health care system (it’s a joke, folks, just a joke) has hit a new bottom. Today I found a piece in Health Business Blog that asked

Are you commercially insured with cancer, heart disease or an orthopedic problem? If so, you are a juicy marketing target for hospitals, which drool over the prospect of high fee for service reimbursements. USA Today (Hospitals mine patient records in search of customers) explores how hospitals are combining their own data with information from consumer marketing agencies to pinpoint likely customers for their services.

Give me a break! It’s one thing to mine data for its public health implications, or for clinical trials, but IMHO it is quite another to use my personal health data for marketing purposes. The original article from USA Today told the story of a middle-aged smoker who got a targeted postcard offering him a lung cancer screening. Other people in the service area of the hospital did not get the same postcard.

The non-profit facility is one of a growing number of hospitals using their patients’ health and financial records to help pitch their most lucrative services, such as cancer, heart and orthopedic care. As part of these direct mail campaigns, they are also buying detailed information about local residents compiled by consumer marketing firms — everything from age, income and marital status to shopping habits and whether residents have children or pets at home.

Why, because in our current system, employer-based insurance foots the bill for uncompensated care (the poor) and Medicare/Medicaid patients. That’s the Great American Cost Shift, in which because we don’t have a universal health care system, some of us pay sky-high premiums to insure the rest of us. If I were part of the commercially insured segment,  wouldn’t fight for the continuation of this system for a single minute more.  You are not fortunate, as your premiums go up and your co-pays increase: rather, you are paying for every senior and every poor person whose care is not reimbursed adequately by the government.

I’ve never understood why people whose employers offer health insurance are not in favor of universal health care. Do they think they will lose the ability to choose a physician? I didn’t when I went on Medicare, and my foster kids who are on Medicaid can also choose their physicians.

In the mean time, the system deteriorates and becomes more expensive for those who pay. The hospitals are not forced to change their business models; they are only forced to become better data miners and targeted marketers. But is that what we want our hospital to be known for?

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