The commodification of our health care continues. Big box retailer Costco has now teamed up with health insurance giant Aetna to offer coverage exclusively to Costco members.
The Costco Personal Health Insurance program includes five Aetna health plans with medical benefits and the Hartford insurer’s network of doctors and hospitals. The insurance is being offered in Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. Aetna will broaden its offerings to other states this year.
So health coverage is still treated like a product, like jars of mayonnaise and boxes of laundry detergent. Will we soon be seeing policies peddled at Walmart? The local grocery store? How about signing up for health coverage at the mall? Where does it end? With the health insurance companies getting 30 million new customers thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we’ll probably see more of these types of partnerships between retailers and insurance companies. And who knows how good these health plans are?
Since this country insists on treating health care as so many widgets, the public is at the mercy of “buyer beware.” Sure, the ACA requires insurance plans that are part of the federally-subsidized exchanges to have a minimum standard of quality. But everyone knows how corporations will try to do anything to get around any sort of regulation. In the meantime, we’re supposed to “comparison shop” when considering health plans.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have to “shop around” for my health coverage. Why should anyone have to? It’s enough of a headache to compare cell phone plans, let alone complex insurance policies. “Buyer beware” shouldn’t be a part of health care. A public plan for everyone, like an improved Medicare for all, means not having to worry whether your health coverage is a lemon. And everyone on the public plan, rich or poor, is treated equally. No “bronze plans” for most and “Cadillac coverage” for a few. Aetna and the rest of the health insurance racket need to get out of health care and peddle something else. And Costco should concern itself with selling dog food, televisions and cleaning supplies.