Friday, 24 May 2019

Maybe Life Insurance Isn’t the Killer App After All – Wall Street Journal

A lymphoma patient receives treatment in Seattle, March 21, 2017. Photo: Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

In “Heath Care’s Killer App: Life Insurance” (op-ed, March 21), Dana P. Goldman and Darius Lakdawalla make an enticing case that life insurance can play a game-changing role in lowering costs and saving lives. The real-life example that they use involves a 57-year-old man with metastatic skin cancer taking a breakthrough new drug called Yervoy that costs about $120,000 a year. They calculate that with Medicare paying $96,000, and the insurer paying the patent’s out-of-pocket costs of $24,000, the insurance company would come out way ahead because the policyholder would survive his cancer and continue paying premiums for years to come. Researchers have calculated that new drugs like Yervoy could save life-insurance companies $6.8 billion a year. Sounds too good to be true. And it is. The problem is that 57-year-olds don’t qualify for Medicare, not to mention that most insurance companies don’t cover expensive, lifesaving drugs like Yervoy.

When think-tank academics come up with magic bullets like this “killer app,” they usually end up shooting themselves in the foot.

Richard Parkinson, M.D.

Provo, Utah


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