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Ins. Cos. Aren’t Doctors, But They Keep Practicing Medicine Anyway

By William E. Bennett Jr.

Oct. 22, 2019

Washington Post – We know how important it is to have insurance so that we can get health care.

As a physician, parent and patient, I cannot overemphasize that having insurance is not enough.

As a gastroenterologist, I often prescribe expensive medications or tests for my patients.

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But for insurance companies to cover those treatments, I must submit a “prior authorization” to the companies, and it can take days or weeks to hear back.

If the insurance company denies coverage, which occurs frequently, I have the option of setting up a special type of physician-to-physician appeal called a “peer-to-peer.”

Insurance companies aren’t doctors. So why do we keep letting them practice medicine?

Here’s the thing: After a few minutes of pleasant chat with a doctor or pharmacist working for the insurance company, they almost always approve coverage and give me an approval number.

There’s almost never a back-and-forth discussion; it’s just me saying a few key words to make sure the denial is reversed.

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Because it ends up with the desired outcome, you might think this is reasonable. It’s not. On most occasions, the “peer” reviewer is unqualified to make an assessment about the specific services.

They usually have minimal or incorrect information about the patient. Not one has examined or spoken with the patient, as I have. None of them have a long-term relationship with the patient and family, as I have.

The insurance company will say this system makes sure patients get the right medications. It doesn’t. It exists so that many patients will fail to get the medications they need.

I’ve dealt with this system from the patient side, as well. My daughter has a rare genetic disorder called Phelan-McDermid Syndrome, which causes developmental delay, seizures, heart defects, kidney defect … Read more. 

William E. Bennett Jr. is an associate professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

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