Minority Neighborhoods Pay Higher Car Insurance Premiums Than White Areas With Same Risk

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By Julia Angwin, Jeff Larson, Lauren Kirchner and Surya Mattu for ProPublica – For decades, auto insurers have been observed to charge higher average premiums to drivers living in predominantly minority urban neighborhoods than to drivers with similar safety records living in majority white neighborhoods. Insurers have long defended their pricing by saying that the risk of accidents is greater in those neighborhoods, even for motorists who have never had one. But a first-of-its-kind analysis by ProPublica and Consumer Reports, which examined auto insurance premiums and payouts in California, Illinois, Texas and Missouri, has found that many of the disparities in auto insurance prices between minority and white neighborhoods are wider than differences in risk can explain. In some cases, insurers such as Allstate, Geico and Liberty Mutual were charging premiums that were on average 30 percent higher in zip codes where most residents are minorities than in whiter neighborhoods with similar accident costs. Our findings document what consumer advocates have long suspected: Despite laws in almost every state banning discriminatory rate-setting, some minority neighborhoods pay higher auto insurance premiums than do white areas with similar payouts on claims. This disparity may amount to a subtler form of redlining, a term that traditionally refers to denial of services or products to minority areas.

For Profit Insurers Fueling Opioid Epidemic

Alisa Erkes, who has Behcet’s disease, now takes extended-release morphine and hydrocodone after her insurance company stopped covering the painkilling skin patch Butrans that had been effective for her chronic pain. (Kevin D. Liles for The New York Times)

By Katie Thomas for The New York Times and Charles Ornstein for ProPublica – At a time when the United States is in the grip of an opioid epidemic, many insurers are limiting access to pain medications that carry a lower risk of addiction or dependence, even as they provide comparatively easy access to generic opioid medications. The reason, experts say: Opioid drugs are generally cheap while safer alternatives are often more expensive. Drugmakers, pharmaceutical distributors, pharmacies and doctors have come under intense scrutiny in recent years, but the role that insurers — and the pharmacy benefit managers that run their drug plans — have played in the opioid crisis has received less attention. That may be changing, however. The New York state attorney general’s office sent letters last week to the three largest pharmacy benefit managers — CVS Caremark, Express Scripts and OptumRx — asking how they were addressing the crisis. ProPublica and The New York Times analyzed Medicare prescription drug plans covering 35.7 million people in the second quarter of this year. Only one-third of the people covered, for example, had any access to Butrans, a painkilling skin patch that contains a less-risky opioid, buprenorphine.

Insurance Industry Pays Senators To Not Support Improved Medicare For All

Supporters of the Medicare for All Act of 2017 hold signs at an event to introduce the bill in Washington, DC. Photo by Alex Wong / Getty Images.

By Andrew Perez for MapLight – Democratic senators who haven’t signed on to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” proposal have received twice as much cash from the insurance industry as the bill’s sponsors, MapLight has found. The insurance industry has donated an average of $23,600 since 2010 to senators who have co-sponsored Sanders’ bill, according to a MapLight review of campaign finance data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Democratic senators who have not yet supported his legislation, including Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent, have received an average of $55,500 from the industry. The independent senator from Vermont has been pitching a government-run, single-payer health care system since 1993. But the idea became popular among progressive voters during his 2016 primary campaign against eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and is picking up support. About one-thirdof American adults polled in June said they now support a single-payer health care system. Sanders, who formally proposed his “Medicare for All” plan on Wednesday, has picked up support from 16 of the Senate’s 46 Democrats. Supporters include potential 2020 presidential contenders, such as Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. A majority of House Democrats are backing a similar proposal introduced in January by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.

Senate Debates Billions For Insurers While Public Demands Medicare For All

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By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese for Health Over Profit for Everyone – Senators are back from their long summer recess, and they started off with health care back at the top of the agenda. The Senate HELP committee held its first of four hearings on September 6, and Senator Bernie Sanders is preparing to introduce a Medicare for All bill on September 13. The two efforts are a clear example of the underlying dilemma that we have faced in the United States for the past 100 years: Is health care a commodity or a public good? It can’t be both. The failed efforts to repeal and replace the ACA took up a lot of time and energy this year and left the country in no better position to deal with the ongoing healthcare crisis. Now, time is really short because private health insurers are announcing their rates for 2018, and they are, not surprisingly, screaming for more money because they have to (*gasp*) pay for health care. A group of us attended the first Senate HELP committee hearing to convey the message that the people are ready to undertake the serious work of creating a National Improved Medicare for All. Typically, before and sometimes during a hearing, attendees are allowed to hold signs as long as they are not disruptive.

Insurance Issue Pushing More Expensive Drugs, Not Generics

From Scott Dalton

By Charles Ornstein for ProPublica and Katie Thomas for The New York Times – It’s standard advice for consumers: If you are prescribed a medicine, always ask if there is a cheaper generic. Nathan Taylor, a 3-D animator who lives outside Houston, has tried to do that with all his medications. But when he fills his monthly prescription for Adderall XR to treat his attention-deficit disorder, his insurance company refuses to cover the generic. Instead, he must make a co-payment of $90 a month for the brand-name version. By comparison, he pays $10 or less each month for the five generic medications he also takes. “It just befuddles me that they would do that,” said Taylor, 41. A spokesman for his insurer, Humana, did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls requesting comment. With each visit to the pharmacy, Taylor enters the upside-down world of prescription drugs, where conventional wisdom about how to lower drug costs is often wrong. Consumers have grown accustomed to being told by insurers — and middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers — that they must give up their brand-name drugs in favor of cheaper generics.

Will A Mega-Billionaire Rescue America From GOP’s Insurance Mayhem?

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By Staff of Nader Page – Before recommending a practical way to reverse the devastating impact of Congressional Republicans’ attempts to strip tens of millions of Americans of health insurance coverage, and the non-stop anxiety and dread that comes with such cruel and vicious legislation, note the impact of having gerrymandered (the politicians pick the voters) Washington rulers. The arrogant Republicans in Congress have good health insurance, life insurance, pensions, salaries and expense accounts paid by you the taxpayers. This perversely has led them to drop any empathy their residual consciences might have possessed before they came to Capitol Hill – many as millionaires. At the same time, in a country that spends well over $3 trillion a year on ‘healthcare’, the GOP’s various bills leave millions of families fearing loss of insurance, reduced coverage, larger deductibles, unaffordable co-pays and inscrutable insurance and billing fine-print trap doors. This is producing serious fear, anxiety, depression and in many cases absolute terror for sick children and ailing parents. We have the New York Times to thank for bringing this vast human toll, day after day, night after night, to their readers. In a recent article, reporter Jan Hoffman interviews people who are wondering “whether they would be able to continue screenings and treatment.”

Massive Insurance Giants Call For End To Fossil Fuel Subsidies

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By Karl Mathiesen for Climate Home News – The G20 has already committed to phase out “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption” over the “medium term”. In May, the G7 nations pledged to achieve this by 2025. When the leaders of the 20 largest economies on earth meet in Hangzhou on Thursday and Friday, they must go further, said a joint statement from multinational insurers Aviva, Aegon and Amlin, and commit to an end to assistance for fossil fuel companies within four years.

Fossil Fuel Investments Growing Riskier for Insurers

Low oil prices have jolted the investment world, but a new analysis says fossil fuels' climate risks should be getting insurance companies' attention too. Credit: Getty Images

By Zahra Hirji for Inside Climate News – The 40 largest insurance companies in the United States have $237 billion invested in electric and gas utilities, $221 billion tied to oil and gas companies and nearly $2 billion locked into coal, a new report reveals. With nearly a half-trillion dollars in bonds, equity and other holdings tied to the fossil fuel industry, an analysis published Tuesday by the sustainability group Ceres says insurers should be evaluating their investment exposure to climate change risks.

Obamacare? Wall St. Suddenly Scrambles To Buy Doctors

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By Wolf Ritcher in Wolf Street – For PE firms, the fracking boom was nirvana. An eternal-growth industry. A big part of the money they poured into the scrappy oil & gas companies is now going up in smoke. Other industries are mired in a no-growth or shrinking environment. Chaos keeps breaking out in the international markets, most recently over Greece and China. So, healthcare, which accounts for nearly one-fifth of US GDP, “is really the growth opportunity,” Tom Banning, CEO of the Texas Academy of Family Physicians, told The Texas Tribune: “The forces are aligned to force consolidation, and frankly, how those independent doctors are able to compete against well-heeled, deep-pocketed systems or networks is going to be a problem,” Banning said. “

One Man Show Takes On Healthcare System

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So, as I was saying, display was really inspired by your own personal experiences. Can you speak to that little bit? Yeah, yeah. I was after graduating from Juilliard, I was traveling around pursuing a career in regional theater, and I was in a relationship with someone who had a lot of medical needs. It of the course of time, I experienced, what it’s like to be with someone who has needs like that. And what the experience was like that I’ve never seen anyone talk about in the news or comment in the movies or on an episode of Gray’s Anatomy are the feelings of ambivalence and the darker feelings that people experience when a loved one is in a medical situation. And that medical situation, often you have to go up against the healthcare insurance industry. Is that part of it to? Well, yeah. I mean, and also she’s an artist. So she was on and off with insurance and trying to maintain a career in the arts and stuff like that. So that eventually led me to question whether that was a good system or not. And I also had a friend from school was homeless for a while, and he showed up at the stage door of the theater I was performing at and he had some medical problems.

U.S. Insurer Class Action May Signal Wave Of Climate-Change Suits

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(Reuters) – A major insurance company is accusing dozens of localities in Illinois of failing to prepare for severe rains and flooding in lawsuits that are the first in what could be a wave of litigation over who should be liable for the possible costs of climate change. Farmers Insurance filed nine class actions last month against nearly 200 communities in the Chicago area. It is arguing that local governments should have known rising global temperatures would lead to heavier rains and did not do enough to fortify their sewers and stormwater drains. The legal debate may center on whether an uptick in natural disasters is foreseeable or an “act of God.” The cases raise the question of how city governments should manage their budgets before costly emergencies occur. “We will see more and more cases,” said Michael Gerrard, director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School in New York. “No one is expected to plan for the 500-year storm, but if horrible events are happening with increasing frequency, that may shift the duties.” Gerrard and other environmental law experts say the suits are the first of their kind. Lawyers for the localities will argue government immunity protects them from prosecution, said Daniel Jasica of the State’s Attorney’s Office in Lake County, which is named in the Illinois state court suit.