Big Brother is watching — and charging accordingly

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

You have probably seen the insurance company that has you plug a device into your car, then charges you according to your driving habits.

That may be a good deal for you, then again, maybe not. If you’re a good driver, you’re trading your privacy for a break on premiums. If you’re a bad driver ... well, you’ll pay the price.

Health insurance companies are up to the same thing.

You may even have a plug-in device on your wrist — a fitness tracker — that lets your company’s insurer know how many “steps” you got in today, as well as how much sleep, your heart rate and a scary amount of other information.

But the truth is, they don’t even have to log into your Fitbit.

Health insurers have quietly teamed up with data brokers — think Facebook, other social media and business sites — to gather personal information about you in an effort to see how healthy you are likely to be.

Things you buy, the food you eat, the time you spend watching TV, all go into a formula that affects your insurance bill.

Are you a woman who just changed your name? There may be pre- and post-natal medical bills in the offing. Just get a divorce? Stress may be a factor.

If you’re a woman who buys plus-size clothing, you’re at risk of depression. Behind on your bills? Ditto.

Low-income and minority people are more likely to live in dangerous, unhealthy neighborhoods.

Insurance companies have every right to use algorithms to determine how much coverage they can provide to whom, and what they need to charge to turn a profit. If you’ve ever Googled yourself, you probably know just how much personal information is already loose in cyberspace.

And, if you live a healthy lifestyle, you have a right to be rewarded financially.

But if you have a serious disease through no fault of your own, insurance may be prohibitively expensive. That’s where the need for the universal coverage promised by Obamacare but never truly delivered, comes in.

America still needs to find a way to provide the vital medical care its citizens need at a reasonable cost. That requires expenses to be spread across as wide a population as possible.

Until that is accomplished, sicker people will continue to pay more, or go without medical care altogether.

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