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Insurance Won't Cover Smartphones, When Pricey Alternatives Exist

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the not-even-penny-wise dept.

Handhelds 419

consonant writes "The NY Times has an article on insurers refusing to cover cheaper devices such as iPhones and netbooks which may be used by the speech-impaired, and instead requires them to acquire devices that cost from 10 to 20 times as much. The reason? 'Insurance is supposed to cover medical devices, and smartphones or PCs can be used for nonmedical purposes, like playing video games or Web browsing.' From the article: 'For the millions of Americans with A.L.S., Down syndrome, autism, strokes and other speech-impairing conditions, the insurance industry's aversion to covering mainstream devices adds to the challenges they face. Advocates say using an everyday device to communicate can ease the stigma and fear of making the adjustment. At the same time, current policies mean that the government and private insurers may be spending unnecessary dollars on specialty machines.'"

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Fraud-bait... tort-bait (5, Insightful)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425121)

It'll be amazing how many people suddenly come down with "disabilities" once insurance companies start paying for fancy PDAs and SmartPhones...

Also, once a PDA or SmartPhone is declared a "medical device," it will be subject to the same approvals and liabilities as medical devices, and will therefore cost 10 to 20 times as much as they do today...

IT'S MADONNA'S BIRTHDAY TODAY! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29425209)

I made it through the wilderness
Somehow I made it through
Didn't know how lost I was
Until I found you

I was beat incomplete
I'd been had, I was sad and blue
But you made me feel
Yeah, you made me feel
Shiny and new

Chorus:

Like a virgin
Touched for the very first time
Like a virgin
When your heart beats (after first time, with your heartbeat)
Next to mine

Gonna give you all my love, boy
My fear is fading fast
Been saving it all for you
cause only love can last

You're so fine and you're mine
Make me strong, yeah you make me bold
Oh your love thawed out
Yeah, your love thawed out
What was scared and cold

MADONNA IS THE BEST!

Re:IT'S MADONNA'S BIRTHDAY TODAY! (3, Funny)

digitig (1056110) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425839)

Why was that modded offtopic? Clearly it was going to be about how "how many people suddenly come down with "disabilities" once insurance companies start paying for fancy PDAs and SmartPhones", although I'm not sure that attention deficit disorder is much helped by fancy PDAs and -- oh, look! A butterfly!

Fraud or stupidity (-1, Offtopic)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425233)

When will it stop? These devices can be lost or stolen far to easily , not to mention go into the wash
by accident. The number of claims would clog the system. What is next? Insuring pall point pens?!?!

Re:Fraud or stupidity (2, Insightful)

bcmm (768152) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425359)

They're not talking about that sort of insurance (which you can already get). The article is from the USA, where "insurer" means medical insurance.

Re:Fraud or stupidity (-1, Offtopic)

mdwh2 (535323) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425651)

I'm still a bit confused by the article - if she's paying for it herself, why does she need the insurance to pay for it? I presumed this must be about insurance that covers products being stolen?

Yes, the whole thing seems mad that insurers would prefer expensive products, but in some sense, she's still gained by moving technology: she can now spend $300 on a Samsung N110 or phone, instead of $8,000. Even if she can't get it insured, on average she'd still be better off - unless her device gets stolen over 26 times during its lifetime.

And how many of us here bother to spend insurance on electronic items (I know some do, but I don't think it's universal)? Or is the article on about something else altogether?

Re:Fraud or stupidity (1, Offtopic)

dissy (172727) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425831)

And how many of us here bother to spend insurance on electronic items (I know some do, but I don't think it's universal)? Or is the article on about something else altogether?

Indecently, my standard renters insurance policy covers my home computer gear, and has an add-on "floater" policy to cover my laptops when not at home.
The floater costs a little bit extra each month (~$40, but changes on your level of coverage), but covers theft as well as damages like fire, etc.

My iPhone is relatively new, so not insured at all, but I imagine they would let me add it to the floater policy similar to how my laptops are covered.

I would never have dreamed of attempting to claim it was for medical purposes and get medical insurance over the thing, when normal insurance is so cheap and plentiful!

Check with your renters or home owners insurance company and see what they offer. You might be surprised how inexpensive it can be.

Re:Fraud or stupidity (2, Informative)

poolecl (170874) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425935)

The article is about Medical Insurance (HMO's, etc) paying for consumer devices such as iPhones and software to run medical uses, such as a speech generator for those that cannot speak for themselves. Currently they will pay for expensive, more customized devices. THIS ARTICLE IS NOT SPEAKING AT ALL ABOUT REPLACEMENT OR LOSS INSURENCE!

Re:Fraud or stupidity (1)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425893)

You're not understanding the article. As the parent already stated, they're talking about medical insurance, not property insurance.

And why does she need the insurance to pay for it? Because that's they're job. That's why she's paying for a medical plan. If the devices were free, then you wouldn't need your insurance company to pay for it.

Re:Fraud or stupidity (0, Offtopic)

Relyx (52619) | more than 5 years ago | (#29426037)

The only insurance I have is for my photographic gear (which I depend on to make a living) and my iPhone.

Normally I wouldn't bother taking insurance out on a mobile, but the iPhone is pretty easy to lose and expensive to replace. Now one could easily say,"Well, just take good care of your mobile so you don't need insurance." With the best will in the world though, accidents happen - even to otherwise very careful people. That's life.

Earlier this year I did indeed lose my iPhone. No problem though - I quickly obtained a police reference number, visited the store I bought my iPhone from, and walked out ten minutes later with a brand new one! And iTunes had already backed up my data. Within twelve hours of losing my phone I was back in business as if nothing had happened. The cost of insurance was nothing compared to the full cost of replacing the iPhone.

- Andrew

Re:Fraud-bait... tort-bait (1)

ringbarer (545020) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425375)

It'll be amazing how many people suddenly come down with "disabilities"

Isn't that how autism started?

Re:Fraud-bait... tort-bait (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29426019)

No, autism "started" because cheap-ass Republicans closed down all the mental institutions where we used to send the kids who spent all day staring at the dot on the wall and now everyone has to deal with them.

Re:Fraud-bait... tort-bait (1)

alen (225700) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425499)

With iPhone OS 3 Apple is making a big push into the medical market. In March and June they demo'd the iphone running medical apps like a hospital sending patient vitals to a doctor's iphone and Johnson and Johnson is going to be making add ons so you can measure blood chemistry with your iphone or ipod touch

Cripple Ware (2, Insightful)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425871)

If there ever was a good excuse for crippled software then this might be it. Allow the application to lock out all the other functions of the iphone the insurance companies fear. That way you get the cost savings of a commondity device as the platform, but avoid the temptation of people to try to get phony perscriptions. I sort of doubt this temptation logic but the insurance companies probably know better than I do about how that goes. There are tonnes of shady companies pushing home health devices that can be justified under medicare but don't really work or soon break (e.g. scooters whose batteries quickly die). They can just imagine how an easy to sell iphone would become.

Moreover you can imagine that while this test to speech is a compelling use case, there are tonnes of other marginal justifications. for example, a timer application might be sold as a reminder for diabetics to check their glucose. A web based local pollen count application for asthmatics. all of these justifying that the insurance companies buy someone an iphone.

(by the way getting diagnosed as an asthmatic is apparently easy since all the pro bike riders have prescriptions for inhalers for brochial passage enlargers)

making the app cripple the device would sort of fix the dillema but still allow genuine need cases to get what they need.

Re:Fraud-bait... tort-bait (3, Interesting)

JustinOpinion (1246824) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425527)

Pardon my ignorance, but why would a smartphone have to be classified as a "medical device" in order to be covered under a health insurance? Obviously policies can be arbitrarily detailed and include various restrictions... But it seems like any sensible policy (ha!) would include allowances for expenses relevant to your condition but not explicitly "medical". Like offsetting transportation costs for persons with limited mobility or a better bed for a person with a particular back condition. Does the taxi or bed have to get some special medical certification to be covered?

I would think the limiting factor should be getting a doctor's diagnosis. If a doctor signs-off, and says "person X has condition Y" and the policy covers condition Y, then anything that does the job of helping with condition Y should be fair game. Random people can't try to claim their smartphone as an health expense: only people with conditions that the smartphone helps alleviate.

(Of course, I'm being hopelessly naive about how health insurance works. You can tell I grew up in a country with universal healthcare.)

Re:Fraud-bait... tort-bait (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425593)

The health insurance companies are required to provide medical devices that doctors think are necessary for treatment. If it isn't a medical device, then it can't be necessary.

Re:Fraud-bait... tort-bait (2, Funny)

suggsjc (726146) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425895)

You can tell I grew up in a country with universal healthcare.

No, but I can tell that you threw in a useless addendum to an otherwise insightful post.

Re:Fraud-bait... tort-bait (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425953)

Most of insurance work and rules are for preventing fraud (Government or Private). It is possible that you can find a Dr. Who will prescribe you whatever you want (Just take a look at California and Marijuana). So if you want an insurance covered iPhone, just find a doctor fake a hearing test and ask for a smart phone and you are all set. When word gets out insurance will be covering hundreds of thousands of smart phones where they would be covering perhaps only 10 thousands of products that cost 5 times as much. By saying No to such products makes it easy to prevent abuse.

Re:Fraud-bait... tort-bait (3, Informative)

corbettw (214229) | more than 5 years ago | (#29426003)

Because insurance companies tie their definition of "medical device" to what Medicare reimburses for (one of the reasons for this is that Medicare constitutes such a large part of the market for people using medical devices that insurance companies find it cheaper to use their list than generate one of their own). And since Medicare has certain legal requirements for what a "medical device" is (including going through FDA approval), it can be expensive and complicated to get on that list. Hence, any device that is on the list is going to cost much more than one that isn't. The alternative is to let Medicare bureaucrats, who are not doctors, decide whether a device is medically necessary or not.

So you're not naive about how health insurance works. You've naive about how government programs in the United States work. Now maybe you can understand why most of us don't want the Federal government to have anything to do with health care: they'll just make it worse.

Re:Fraud-bait... tort-bait (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#29426011)

Pardon my ignorance, but why would a smartphone have to be classified as a "medical device" in order to be covered under a health insurance?

For-profit insurance management basically consists of denying any possible claim on any possible basis. What more is there to know?

(hate hate HATE the five minute posting delay. This comment did not improve with four minutes of aging.)

Re:Fraud-bait... tort-bait (3, Insightful)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425547)

Indeed... And why would these devices have to be insured if they're cheap anyway?

like my states new medical marijuana program (2, Funny)

peter303 (12292) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425605)

Vast numbers of 20-something males have come down with severe pain: 1/3rd of the MM patients are in this demographic according state statistics. Each patient is allowed to grow six plants at one time. However this task can be delegated to a "caregiver". There are now hundred ads filling five pages in our alternative weekly advertising caregivers.

Re:Fraud-bait... tort-bait (1)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425713)

It'll be amazing how many people suddenly come down with "disabilities" once insurance companies start paying for fancy PDAs and SmartPhones...

Guess the Republican mods are out in force because this is utter rubbish. How the hell are you going to fake having Downs Syndrome? Surely any half decent doctor would see through this a mile off. You do usually have to see a medical doctor in person to make an insurance claim don't you?

Also, once a PDA or SmartPhone is declared a "medical device," it will be subject to the same approvals and liabilities as medical devices, and will therefore cost 10 to 20 times as much as they do today...

More rubbish here too. Dedicated medical devices cost more than generic devices due to this thing called "Economies of Scale". The idea is the the more of a particular product you can produce, the cheaper you can produce it. The medical devices you talk about being 20 times more expensive are like that because they only appeal to a niche market. Iphones have much more universal appeal so have a manufacturing run many times the size. This means they can be produced far more cheaply. This is what mass-production is all about.

Re:Fraud-bait... tort-bait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29425957)

Guess the Republican mods are out in force because this is utter rubbish. How the hell are you going to fake having Downs Syndrome?

Republicans don't need to fake it.

Re:Fraud-bait... tort-bait (3, Insightful)

corbettw (214229) | more than 5 years ago | (#29426041)

Guess the Republican mods are out in force because this is utter rubbish.

Seriously? Have you never known someone who got a handicap placard from an agreeable doctor, even though they didn't need one? Or what about the ease of getting a prescription for marijuana in California? There are clinics in LA where you just have to tell the doc you have "occasional headaches" and they'll write a script for pot. Are you trying to claim there won't be ANY doctors who would write a script for an iPhone for some reason or other?

Re:Fraud-bait... tort-bait (1)

poolecl (170874) | more than 5 years ago | (#29426005)

The ideal solution seems to be to cover the software but not the device in these instances. Fits the only for medical purposes rule and eliminates the fraud to get a device problem.

Re:Fraud-bait... tort-bait (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29426057)

dont they already use them in the military?

It's government's fault (0, Flamebait)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425147)

This "insurance is supposed to cover medical devices" comes directly from government regulation. Even if an insurance company like Nationwide wanted to provide coverage to buy an Iphone for their hearing-disabled customer, they could not do it, else they'd be fined by the U.S. Congress.

Re:It's government's fault (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29425401)

Care to point out, which regulation or act should be held reponsible for these decisions? Red tape is not a unique feature of government.

Re:It's government's fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29425677)

It's easy to hold bullshit opinions and remain ignorant when you hold the belief that if others don't do all the research for you then your opinion can't possibly be wrong, isn't it?

Re:It's government's fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29425905)

Yep, just like it's easy to claim "there's a regulation" without actually proving it or even really knowing it to be true. For instance, there's a Federal regulation that people calling others ignorant while posting anonymously owe me their lunch money.

See how easy that is?

Re:It's government's fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29426081)

I'll be collecting next week.

Re:It's government's fault (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29425613)

Oh noes, the government! Maybe, if we just blame everything bad on the government, we can go back to a wonderful world with no government! What could go wrong? We should have listened to those cuddly anarchists long ago!

Re:It's government's fault (1)

arb phd slp (1144717) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425955)

The funding system is completely bewildered by the existence of general-purpose devices serving the same functions as a medical device. Part of this is their expectation of efficacy testing for medical devices. Right now, no one does efficacy testing for specific devices for a few reasons: a) extraordinarily low incidence of speech-language disorders, b) heterogeneity of that population requiring each device be heavily customized (goodbye experimental control), which together means that a study of sufficient scale would have to be an expensive, nationwide, multi-center thing, c) by the time that got done, Moore's Law will have kicked in and the device will be a generation behind, and d) universities who can do such testing (correctly) don't want to be seen as a single vendor's bitch. No devices right now are truly "FDA-approved."

What we're working on instead is a more general theoryâ" evidence-based best-practices that can be applied to anything. With the tremendous variation in types of disability, once they get the device a speech-language therapist, occupational therapist and a rehabilitation engineer are just going to tear the thing down and rebuild it from scratch anyway.

The way it is done now is individuals borrow one, get some trial therapy, and the clinicians use the data from those trials to justify a device to the insurer as effective and medically necessary.

Re:It's government's fault (1, Insightful)

ari_j (90255) | more than 5 years ago | (#29426001)

Citation needed. Please indicate the title and section of the US Code that levies a fine on insurance companies for providing coverage to buy an iPhone or other smartphone for a hearing-disabled customer.

Ah, American insurers ... (4, Insightful)

aeschenkarnos (517917) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425179)

... is there anything stupid, evil or simply wrong that they will not do?

Re:Ah, American insurers ... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29425267)

I haven't heard of them eating puppies yet, but that's only because they haven't found a way to monetize it.

Re:Ah, American insurers ... (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425611)

What do you think their vacations to southeast Asia are for?

nope, they follow government guidelines (1, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425315)

as such why do people think health insurance is prohibitively expensive when bought outside an employer, granted its not cheap through an employer either.

Government regulations, read mandates.

Its not legal to buy health insurance across state lines, you can't even take individual health policies across most lines, all unless your covered by your employer. Your employer gets a tax deduction for your insurance that you cannot get if you buy your own. when you go to buy it you get soaked because each state piles on its mandated coverage to the already onerous federal mandates.

From mental health to smoking cessation. From pregnancy to implants. You will end up paying for coverage you will not use, in many cases cannot use, all because of some petty politicians whim. That is why we have 1000 page health bills, not because they are looking out for us, they are deciding what is and what isn't.

So yeah, I can totally see one device used in preference to another, the government says "this is what we will pay for and this list shows the extent of what qualifies"

How in the hell do you think the hovaround business stays in business. Because of the stroke of a pen makes anyone with a job buy them for people who may not even want them.

It will get vastly worse when the government takes total control. Every bit player will get their funding for their "medical" devices and the only thing not getting real money is patient care.

Re:nope, they follow government guidelines (4, Insightful)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425643)

Considering what you're describing, I'd have to think that the US is by far the most corrupt industrialised country in the western world.

When private companies (looking to make a profit) can provide cheaper health care than the government (who isn't looking to make a profit), something is very wrong, and the answer to that is usually corruption.

While we tend to complain about our hospitals (usually because of staffing issues), at least we don't face interesting questions such as "would I rather lose the house or the leg. The leg costs 100 grand, isn't covered by insurance, and I'd have to sell the house. And if I sell the house, where will we live? Maybe the wife'll leave me, or maybe child services will take the kids away."

And we don't have to worry about our doctor finding out that we have some kind of underlying but undiscovered illness. Or if we get one that takes forever to fight, to the extent that we lose our job over it and have to go on welfare for a while, at least we won't be fucked when we finally get back on our feet, just because we have a pre-existing condition that requires expensive medicine to cure.

Sure, if you can afford the insurance and weather a few years of really bad luck, I don't doubt that the US can provide some of the very best health service in the world. But I'm yet to hear of anyone in Denmark or Sweden who had to declare bankruptcy because they couldn't pay hospital costs.

As an example, I spent four days in a mental institution (checked myself in). That did cost me. A staggering 320 Swedish Kronar or 46 US$. Sure, that's more than it'd cost to feed myself for four days, but not by much. And considering I have a suicide attempt in my medical history, I think I'd be excluded over a pre-existing mental condition by most US HMOs if not all of them.

So again, if the private for profit companies can do a better job than your non-profit government, you have a massive problem with corruption. Not just in government, but also in the companies that provides these bribes and get away with it. But I don't think I've ever seen any mention of this in the mainstream US media, but considering none of them seem to be providing any kind of critical thinking and instead settle for either being cheerleaders or hecklers, I can't say I'm surprised.

Re:nope, they follow government guidelines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29425771)

There are only private companies. It's just they have to deal with regulations that force certain kinds of coverage. You cannot pick what kind of coverage you get. Instead there are absolute minimums that must be covered by law.

Re:nope, they follow government guidelines (4, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425863)

But I don't think I've ever seen any mention of this in the mainstream US media

You have, you just don't understand the code-words. When the American media talks about "the free market" and "free market capitalism" they mean "our utterly corrupt system where corporate and Party interests have completely captured the organs of the State and use them to futher their own interests."

Americans call this system of plutocratic oligarchy a "free" market for historical reasons, although arguably "free" could also mean, "free of economic rationality, ethics and democratic oversight."

Re:nope, they follow government guidelines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29426043)

I always wondered why is it that surgery can cost in the order 100 grand in the US. A friend living there recently explained it to me. Aside from the fact that hospitals in the US exist to make money, not save lives... seems malpractice litigation is so common and involves such high damages that doctors have to buy expensive insurance (up to half their salaries) in case they get sued.

It's absurd how ineffectively money is being allocated in the US health care system and how much of it goes into the pockets of corporations.

Re:nope, they follow government guidelines (5, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425817)

why do people think health insurance is prohibitively expensive when bought outside an employer

Because it is.

It will get vastly worse when the government takes total control.

That's not been the case in the countries that do in fact have total government control of health care spending.

WRONG! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29425945)

This is Slashdot. Everything government does is treasonous and everything business does is beautiful!

That's not been the case in the countries that do in fact have total government control of health care spending.

(Fingers in ears) La-la-la I can't hear you!

Re:nope, they follow government guidelines (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 5 years ago | (#29426077)

Those countries you mentioned didn't have an important source of corruption: the US Congress. I guarantee you those assclowns will find a way to screw it up.

Re:nope, they follow government guidelines (3, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425975)

Its not legal to buy health insurance across state lines, you can't even take individual health policies across most lines, all unless your covered by your employer.

That is because each state has different laws covering health insurance. There is no government regulation preventing you from purchasing insurance from a carrier in a different state, nor is there regulation preventing an insurance company from selling in multiple states.

Your employer gets a tax deduction for your insurance that you cannot get if you buy your own.

100% false. You can deduct medical insurance premiums.

when you go to buy it you get soaked because each state piles on its mandated coverage to the already onerous federal mandates

This is a separate issue, and one worthy of debate. The alternative to mandated coverages (which are much less onerous than you assume, I think) is insurers selling insurance, collecting premiums, then denying claims for seemingly random conditions. This was a HUGE problem before states stepped in to regulate the medical insurance industry. While it needs to be balanced against efficiency, there is no doubt in my mind that mandated coverages have been a big benefit to insurance buyers.

As for the first two items I addrsssed, you are either being disingenuous or are grossly misinformed. I hope it's the latter, but I'm not sure.

While I agree that over-regulation can be a problem, under-regulation can also be a problem. Letting the insurance companies do what they want will not result in a better outcome for the people who buy insurance. We've been there, and it doesn't work. My big complaint with over-regulation is that it creates barriers to entry due to compliance costs; however, there are already significant barriers to entry in the medical insurance business because of the cost of catastrophic cases (capital reserves need to be very large, which keeps new entrants out; also, bad luck could easily mean insolvency for a small insurer).

Re:nope, they follow government guidelines (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 5 years ago | (#29426063)

It will get vastly worse when the government takes total control. Every bit player will get their funding for their "medical" devices and the only thing not getting real money is patient care.

The evidence is against you there -- most countries with state healthcare provision get better health outcomes for about the same per-capita spending as the US government is already spending on healthcare. Your health insurance contributions are buying you nothing in terms of health (though I grant that they might buy you nicer places to be sick in). Have a look at the cross-country comparisons [wikipedia.org] and see who you think is being shafted at the moment. Of course, you might be right, if the US government is really that much better than all other countries at screwing things up, but you'll have a hard time convincing us Brits of that (and I suspect some other countries will want to see evidence, too) because if there's one thing our government is good at it's screwing things up. And even that doesn't come close to matching how bad your health insurers are.

Well, technically (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425865)

Well, I guess technically if there was something stupid, evil or simply wrong that requires them to pay money for, they'd probably try to weasel out of it :P

Re:Ah, American insurers ... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29425919)

You need to take Obama's dick out of your mouth. It's sad how many people obediently follow our governments commands, swallow every bit of propaganda without any thought, and push ideas and opinions designed to distract people from understanding the reality of the situation.
Turn your brain back on, turn off the TV, and get with reality.

Perfect storm of regulation and corruption (4, Interesting)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425189)

At the same time, current policies mean that the government and private insurers may be spending unnecessary dollars on specialty machines

That's the point, isn't it?

On the one hand, devices have to go through insane amounts of certification to pass as an official medical device. On the other hand, I'm sure medical device manufacturers really don't want cheap (or even reasonably priced) software on commodity devices eating their lunch.

I suspect the regulations are doing their work for them, but if they weren't, they'd be colluding with the insurers to make damn sure they didn't support commodity devices.

Re:Perfect storm of regulation and corruption (1)

GargamelSpaceman (992546) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425407)

Think about how many people won't get any such device because the 'medical ones' suck. Maybe a commodity device isn't as reliable ( though that's debatable ) but it's a hell of a lot more reliable than nothing at all. And before you start blaming the sick - well if you needed to be able to communicate that bad then you wouldn't mind carrying a clunky 'I've fallen and I can't get up' button everywhere you go, how is choosing to accept a risk like that different than choosing to eat some greasy pizza rather than 100% dietetic but highly unpalatable human kibble? They don't even make 100% dietetic human kibble, probably because nobody would eat Kibbles and Bits for humans even if it was good for them.

Speaking of which, that might not be a bad idea: Kibbles and Bits for humans. If you eat the measured amount of this per day, and nothing else, and drink nothing but water then you will get very decent nutrition given the current state of medical knowledge. It's dry dog food for people! It might not even taste awful, since it would be full of good stuff. Shit I see a business brewing here... Kibbles and Bits and Soylent Bits! If they could come up with different flavors, without changing the nutritional content then they might have a winner with people who don't want to think about what the hell they are eating, but still want to be healthy.

Re:Perfect storm of regulation and corruption (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425565)

It's called rice and beans. Flavor to taste.

Re:Perfect storm of regulation and corruption (1)

idontgno (624372) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425659)

Speaking of which, that might not be a bad idea: Kibbles and Bits for humans. If you eat the measured amount of this per day, and nothing else, and drink nothing but water then you will get very decent nutrition given the current state of medical knowledge

I hear we make great pets.

Re:Perfect storm of regulation and corruption (1)

dawich (945673) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425729)

Assistive devices for the vision-impaired do not receive the same scrutiny as a medical device like an ultrasound machine, or an IV pump. But they cost the same. There are a bunch of companies that make Braille printers, readouts for laptops, screen readers, etc., and the devices are often poorly built, and outrageously expensive. Mainly because the government was the only one buying them for people who needed them. And when I say outrageously expensive, I mean a talking tape measure for $150, a 40-character braille readout that sticks to the bottom of your laptop for $2000 (the 80-character was quite a bit more), and so on. But I would certainly not classify these as medical devices as far as quality - there weren't any requirements for higher spec power supplies, special sealed plugs and casings, and so forth. They just charged like there was.

Re:Perfect storm of regulation and corruption (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29425927)

Why is everyone so quick to blame the government? These devices are poorly made and expensive, because there's low demand. Without the benefits of mass production, the engineering costs are passed on to only a few purchasers making the costs high and the quality low. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.

GREED (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29425191)

Is anyone really suprised by this move?

Insurance isn't about helping people. It's about making money. And such devices are cheaply made and prone to problems and breaking.

Just good business not to cover them.

Re:GREED (2, Interesting)

jonbryce (703250) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425557)

How many $300 iphones would need to break before it became more expensive than an $8000 text to speech device? And I'm pretty sure a $200 ipod touch would do the job just as well.

Missing the other half... (5, Insightful)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425217)

What TFS leaves out is that the reason "medical devices" cost so much is FDA regulations and the higher standards to which they are held. There is no possible way an iPhone could be certified as a "medical device". If Apple were to apply for certification, they would need to make a lot of changes, such as...wait for it...eliminating the ability to run 3rd party code.

Yes, insurance companies can be stupid when applying rules against paying for certain devises or "experimental" procedures. But ask the women whose lives were cut short by Congress forcing them to cover bone marrow transplants for breast cancer.

Re:Missing the other half... (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425323)

If Apple were to apply for certification, they would need to make a lot of changes, such as...wait for it...eliminating the ability to run 3rd party code.

Need to lock your iPhone so that it runs a proprietary medical application and can only run that one single proprietary medical application? ... There's an app for that.

Re:Missing the other half... (1)

Thornburg (264444) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425707)

What TFS leaves out is that the reason "medical devices" cost so much is FDA regulations and the higher standards to which they are held. There is no possible way an iPhone could be certified as a "medical device". If Apple were to apply for certification, they would need to make a lot of changes, such as...wait for it...eliminating the ability to run 3rd party code.

This can't possibly be true. There are already "medical devices" that are just small x86 computers running WinCE (or even full Windows) and a proprietary app.

No special lockdown, just no obvious way to run another app (if you don't know where to look or what to do).

Since these devices qualify, we can infer that the most that's required is hiding the ability to run other apps, not disabling it.

Re:Missing the other half... (1)

ACMENEWSLLC (940904) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425877)

>>cost so much is FDA regulations and the higher standards to which they are held

So is that why my wife's first insulin pump failed, was replaced, failed, was replaced over and over? From failed motors, the crappy plastic they used that broke, to the fact she spent over $5000 on a water proof device (to something like 6 feet) to "oops, we were wrong, sorry"? Where is the FDA here?

She switched to another vendor and it was the same story. The again, the pump motor would fail after several months, the plastic break, replacement after replacement. Then the Pod device. The consumables are much more expensive on this. The pods are cheaply produced, so sometimes they don't insert correctly. Sometimes one has to try 3 pods to get one which will work.

Somehow I don't think that FDA regulations are really worth a crap when it comes to consumer medical devices. The FDA even has rules against patching medical devices running Windows; http://lawfirmit.blogspot.com/2009/05/fda-rule-on-appying-windows-patches.html [blogspot.com] You have to get approval to patch, which takes around 90 days.

Now wait for it to be a government agency. (2, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425247)

Now wait for it to be a government agency denying you instead of an insurance agency. We can replace one insensitive bureaucracy with another, equally insensitive one! Hope and... change?

It reminds me of transit benefits, and how you're only allowed to use them for getting to and from work - God forbid that we take public transit for personal trips - it would be a tragedy... also, it reminds me how the Aptera is ineligible for auto-industry loans because it only has three wheels and the law says an auto has four wheels.... at least Congress is thinking about changing that one (well, at the "this is eligible for loans" level, not the "cars have four wheels" level. . .)

-- still wondering why my health insurance can't be more like my auto insurance, where I get to pick someone who has their act together...

Re:Now wait for it to be a government agency. (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425367)

Look, the government is very large and as such, can get much better deals on $400 hammers and $1,000 toilet seats. If you go to the store and try to buy a $400 hammer, it will probably cost you at least $600, maybe more.

Re:Now wait for it to be a government agency. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29426087)

Look, the government is very large and as such, can get much better deals on $400 hammers and $1,000 toilet seats. If you go to the store and try to buy a $400 hammer, it will probably cost you at least $600, maybe more.

So, has no one told you this story is false or does it help your agenda too much stop spreading false stories?

Re:Now wait for it to be a government agency. (3, Interesting)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425417)

A big contributor to the lack of choice in health insurance is that employers treat it as a benefit, rather than compensation (if all those people were shopping with the dollars their employer is currently spending to cover them, there is some chance that there would be better options available, and probably even pools that were slightly easier to get into).

Of course, another issue with employer provided insurance is that there is small scale socialism going on (employers are willing to employ people with chronic conditions that are essentially not insurable (the condition), and the organization simply pays the cost of their medical care (even if it happens to be embedded in the premiums they pay)).

Come see the violence inherent in the system! (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425727)

Hey look! I take "subject of TFA" plus "current events" plus "car analogy" (well, auto industry subsidy analogy) to comment on the likely future outcome of related matters, and what thanks do I get? I'm moderated down to Flamebait oblivion! How dare I imply that the government takeover of health care which our current administration seeks will be anything less than a perfect utopia? It will be so good that everyone will get an iPhone for free, not just the people with speech impediments!

There's some insight to be drawn here about the everyday partisans who are supporting the public health-care cause. I'll leave it to you to figure out exactly what it is, though. In the meantime, go back and read the moderator guidelines... jerks.

American Healthcare... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29425269)

Is anyone really surprised?
The American healthcare system is just a complete joke to every civilized country with a reasonable system. It is built of pure greed and entirely designed for the rich at the cost of letting the poor die (literally). But I guess that is what Americans want so they can claim they don't have socialized medicine and the guy on the monopoly board can gain $200 when you land on his hospital.

I'm fat (1)

buck-yar (164658) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425275)

can govt pay for my ATV? The alternative is a really expensive wheel chair...

sheesh, no wonder insurance rates are skyrocketing

Re:I'm fat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29425373)

No, but they will buy you this [youtube.com] amphibious wheelchair.

Health Insurance: Broken Incentives Abound (4, Informative)

amplt1337 (707922) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425333)

No, really, it's everywhere.
A few years back, I had to have an operation on my foot. The doctor said he could do the operation in his office under local anesthetic and the whole thing would cost a couple thousand bucks (memory's fuzzy), or we could do it in a hospital where it'd be 5x more expensive. The catch? My insurance would cover the hospital outpatient surgery, but not his office (which was also a fully licensed and certified surgical center, just not attached to a hospital). So I did it in the hospital, of course; I was between contracts and couldn't afford to do otherwise even if I had felt noble enough to do it for the good of the health care system.

Misguided incentives like this are all over health insurance--just look at the varying coverage rates for preventive care vs. corrective care (like diabetes maintenance vs. amputations). If you can put off the treatment until later, there's a reasonable chance that some other insurance company will pick up the more expensive tab, and "patient outcomes? What's that?"

It's one of the strongest arguments for a single-payer healthcare system: the chance to remove loopholes that lead to these bad incentives.

Re:Health Insurance: Broken Incentives Abound (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425689)

In all fairness, I think a single payer system will also have bad incentives in place.

Re:Health Insurance: Broken Incentives Abound (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29425887)

No doubt; but they'll be different ones, and subject to referendum through a democratic process (rather than decided by a boardroom).
Not to say that the current regulatory framework isn't responsible for some (not most) of the current bad incentives, either; and given how broken the democratic system is in the US, it may be a fool's dream to think anything is actually improved by democracy...

Re:Health Insurance: Broken Incentives Abound (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425907)

I agree, but a single payer has the ability, and incentive, to effect changes.

With multiple payers, you have an enormous Mexican stand-off, with no-one willing to change the system. No-one wants to offer preventative care in case it ends up more expensive than treating the outcome. If an insurance company is being hit hard by a particular care segment, no problem, they'll just adjust their policies to stop covering it, instead of trying to prevent it.

With a single payer, responsible for all healthcare expenses, the incentive is there to try and improve long term outcomes and efficiency, because it will have to pay for todays mistakes in the future.

Alas, you get fricking stupid gaming of the system by managers trying to meet government targets (when they should just be explaining why they can't meet the target, so the system can be fixed - instead of penalizing care centres short of resources... by taking away more of their resources), but at least they are all on the same side, trying to help the patient and not trying to line their pockets (in anything more than a personal I-got-my-bonus sort of way).

Re:Health Insurance: Broken Incentives Abound (1)

Richy_T (111409) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425693)

Far better just to remove the loopholes that are at issue than wholesale replace the system with a different and more cumbersome system that will have loopholes of its own.

Why bother with insurance? (1)

HateBreeder (656491) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425335)

If the devices cost so little to begin with, why bother with insurance or money claims?

If i had a disability, i'd say 400 dollars is money well spent... and it would probably last you for a couple of years.

Re:Why bother with insurance? (1)

Richy_T (111409) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425757)

If you have a disability, there's a good possibility you are unable to work and are living on a subsistence income.

Not everyone will be in this position but the ones who aren't will just buy the stuff anyway

Re:Why bother with insurance? (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425801)

What if you have a disability that prevents you from working, and you live on a fixed disability allowance, and after paying rent, food, and buying a bus pass you have exactly $7.15 left over at the end of every week?

Re:Why bother with insurance? (1)

HateBreeder (656491) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425937)

Then the insurance company would subsidize the more expensive machine for you...

I don't understand what the gripe is about... saving the insurance company money?

If it's about insuring (against damage or theft) an expensive machine, then the $7.15 won't help you get that machine in the first place.

If it's about the insurance companies willing to buy the expensive machine for you but not the cheap one, then why would a (financially) poor, disabled person mind?

Re:Why bother with insurance? (1)

codegen (103601) | more than 5 years ago | (#29426067)

If it's about the insurance companies willing to buy the expensive machine for you but not the cheap one, then why would a (financially) poor, disabled person mind?

because the inexpensive machine may be easier to use and more effective for dealing with your disability.

Wow (4, Funny)

Sterrance (1257342) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425361)

I never thought I'd see an article that would refer to the iPhone as "cheap."

To be expected (4, Insightful)

FreeUser (11483) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425393)

Customers: I've paid my insurance premiums all my life. Now that I've had this terrible accident I need you to cover some modest expenses required for me to maintain the semblence of the life I once had.

Insurers: We thank you for your custom. Your call is important to us. However, you fail to understand even the most basic aspects of our business model. We're here to fuck you, not help you. Coverage denied. Thank you for playing.

(Applicable to most forms of health-related insurance it seems)

In the context of things like this, it amazes me (as an American, no less) that the US still finds itself embroiled in the health-care debate the rest of the industrialized world successfully resolved more than 60 years ago (in some places, as long as 80-90 years ago). Even with neanderthals like the Republicans around, you'd have thought the moderate and progressive populations of the country would have dragged that country out of the stone age by now ... but I digress.

Re:To be expected (3, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425447)

Have you tried getting the Canadian | British | French | $EUROPEAN_NATION's government to cover an iPhone for a speech impediment or other similar communications-related disability? Please, try it and let us know exactly how much better socialized medicine is in this regard.

Re:To be expected (5, Informative)

Wizard Drongo (712526) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425561)

Yeah, they would. I mean, sure, they'll go for the medical device if it's better, but if a simple iPhone would work nicely, they'll get you an iPhone. Mainly 'cause in Scotland at least, that sort of decision is made by the local manager in the place you actually go to see the doctor/physio etc. The great thing about the NHS is that it divorces cost from medicine. Since it's all "free" to the patient and the doctor anyway, the doctor will go for the best medical option, regardless of if it costs less or more; admittedly there is some shilling still of GP's by big Pharma trying to get them to prescribe brand X drug, but it's mostly gone, and we see a lot more brand-x-generic now, and all gratuities from Big Pharma to the GP have to be declared. In the States, even if you get coverage, your insurance co. still get shafted by doctors that will order unnecessary tests etc. just to bump up the bill, because it's not his company the money's coming from. Here, it's all the same "company", so if you need a test, you get it. If not, you don't. On the bad side, whilst they'll never turn you down for treatment, depending on where you live, and what it is, you may be waiting a while for that hip-replacement/eye-operation etc.

Mod parent up plz. (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425841)

That was, in fact, informative. Not sure exactly why the question was marked flamebait, but I guess it wasn't you who went and did it, so... Thanks.

Easy to guess (1)

copponex (13876) | more than 5 years ago | (#29426073)

Here's the funny thing. The central issue is that the American solution to health care means that doctors are incentivized to keep us sick, to over medicate us, and to avoid inexpensive solutions to our problems. Insurance companies are incentivized to not provide coverage, most especially to those who are sick. There is no market solution to this problem, because every other method provides less profit, which is an unacceptable model to all corporations.

From what I gather, in Canada and England and France, there are speech therapists that provide free services to anyone who has a disability. So your point is moot - there is probably no reason they would provide an iPhone. They provide you with professional care that has a long history of success, instead of some application that hit the market a few months ago.

This is central to why single payer is so effective. They don't go looking for expensive new solutions when they know how to solve problems already, because there's no incentive. The only criteria for single payer systems is the effectiveness of care. The only criteria for private health care is the profit that can be realized. I'll leave it to your imagination on what incentive structure provides the best care for the least amount of money to the greatest amount of people.

Totally Wrong (3, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425449)

Insurance is about risk management. It's a financial product, not a health one. I pay someone x amount of dollars to provide me the right get y amount of money back based on a risk. By demanding that insurance companies provide all of these things that have absolutely nothing to do with risk, you've screwed this country up. You've basically, like all liberals, twisted something else an excuse to go steal some money.

If you want to have money for people with chronic conditions, make them a federal problem and pay for it with tax money. I recommend taxing intellectual property and imports to come up with the dough.

But for me, all I want is a financial product that says I get coverage for if I have a sudden expensive illness. I don't need or want the federal government, or my employer, to do that.

1. Get employers out of health
2. Put chronic illnesses onto the government
3. Cut everything out of insurance that is non-risk related.

Duh.

Re:Totally Wrong (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425813)

What I always thought was the stupid part about using health insurance to redistribute wealth is that it's basically like paying for other people's health insurance with a tax on... health insurance! Not only is that recursively-stupid (making health insurance *less* affordable) it's also regressive in nature, since poor people will spend a larger portion of their money on health insurance. It's kind of hard to find a real winner under this scheme.

Re:Totally Wrong (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425991)

It's kind of hard to find a real winner under this scheme.

Well, the irony is that insurance companies wind up making more money because of the regulations states impose about what they must pay for. If I get a plan that has prescription drug coverage for a lifelong illness my wife has because my insurance is supposed to pay for it, I actually wind up paying more for the insurance because they company just marks it up. If I go to Costco and pay the cash for the drugs, its a lot cheaper.
But some people don't have that option, and that should be something we have to pony up and do. I'm a conservative and I don't have a problem with that. Let insurance be insurance, tis what I say.

Re:Totally Wrong (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 5 years ago | (#29426015)

3. Cut everything out of insurance that is non-risk related.

So you're pretty much against health insurance as such, because very little of it is risk related. The varianace in health care payouts between individuals over their lifetime is rather small, a factor of ten or so, which is vastly less than the variance in genuine insurance products, which cover accidents, not certainties. But death, and years of declining health that precede it, are pretty much certainties in the modern world. Everyone gets sick, and everyone dies. So there is insufficient risk in health care to justify an insurance model.

I think this is a perfectly reasonable position, and is pretty much what the Canadian single-payer system supports, although we are still mired in archaic insurance-based accounting for parts of it.

It would be great if the US took the current reform opportunity to completely change the health care paradigm away from an insurance model and toward a public good model, with a private market in catastrophic illness insurance (which would run just like term life insurance does, and could be an easy extension of that market.)

But basic health care services are something that virtually everyone needs, like water and electricity, and there is a strong argument for treating it as a public good, like any other utility service.

Re:To be expected (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29425465)

GPL - Because my freedom is not negotiable.

Funny how your tag says this which seems directly contradictory to your statement. YOUR freedom is not negotiable but MINE is since you want to stick your hand in my pocket to make me pay for YOURS.

Re:To be expected (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29425695)

Oh man - you know what you just did.. you mixed sticking your head above the slashdot parapet with standing up where all the teabaggers can see you.... Does your insurance cover treating a bad rash of wingnuts?

Re:To be expected (1)

Richy_T (111409) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425855)

Google "NHS in crisis" then tell me that it's successfully resolved.

You will be modded down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29426079)

Even with neanderthals like the Republicans around

This is Slashdot, land of self-righteous, angry conservatives. You must not value your karma very much.

Is there no end? (1)

anorlunda (311253) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425539)

People also need food, shelter, clothing and heat to stay healthy. Should we expect health insurance to pay for that?

There should be a principle like the legal de minimus rex that puts a floor on health-related expenses that we expect health insurance to cover.

Indeed, if we had stuck with the catastrophic major medical only policies that used to be the only kind of health insurance, our medical care would be much more affordable today. People would pay for routine doctor bills, and if doctors charged more than the common man can afford, they would lose business.

why can't folks pay for their own devices? (3, Interesting)

Satanboy (253169) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425779)

I have 2 cousins who are deaf. They have been using smart phones for a long time rather than TTY devices. In addition, they are all over the net as a means of communication.

They have always paid for this out of pocket. Amazingly, they never had insurance companies to pay for their TTY devices in the first place (those devices cost around 400 bucks about twenty years ago) so I think they are happy just paying for a cheaper service.

I think getting closed captioning added to all televisions was the biggest savings for them. I know my aunt and uncle paid about 20 bucks a month or so and a couple hundred bucks up front for closed captioning devices about 20 years ago.

I'm not sure what insurance you would have that would have paid for these things in the past. I'm sure there are some plans, but honestly, for most 'normal' folks without great insurance plans, these things were just expenses that everyone paid for and just looked at as part of the expense of raising a child, no different than medicine, food, and clothing.

Re:why can't folks pay for their own devices? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425929)

They have always paid for this out of pocket.

As a society we have decided that it's not only people with money who should be able to have health care. Of course, the insurance companies are busy trying to change that every day.

There are a lot of people who can't afford the iPhone. Your "pull your self up by your own bootstraps" rhetoric is particularly insensitive when applied to people who can't work and don't have wealthy family to help them.

Prescription? (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425785)

If a doctor writes a prescription for a non-prescription, that should count for something.

Basically, this is no different than a doctor telling a patient "keep weight off that foot: use a walker, crutches, or cane" but insurance will only cover the walker or crutches not a cane, which may be less expensive.

Um, what? (2, Insightful)

ZekoMal (1404259) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425803)

Okay, so if I coded some software that had some sort of medical use on my computer, would everyone also get all up in arms if insurance companies wouldn't cover my PC that I use almost entirely for entertainment purposes?

The ONLY way that an insurance company should be able to insure a phone is if the phone has everything stripped of it except for the ability to dial 911 and use the medical software. Why the hell is anyone assuming that slapping an iBandaid program on something means that if your dumb ass drops the iPhone in the toilet someone else should pay to replace it?

US medical system (3, Interesting)

valentyn (248783) | more than 5 years ago | (#29425851)

As the Obama healthcare reform is also international news, I read an analysis of the US medical system here in the local newspaper in The Netherlands. The US as a country spends twice as much for it's healthcare as Germany and France, while only 83% of the US Americans have an insurance.

This is because US healthcare is not about health; it is about the caring industry. There's no room for prevention (as there's no profit from prevention), there's only room for Care.

TFA seems just like another example of it.

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