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CFS and the UK insurance industry
Wednesday 25 January 2012
Being a UK citizen has some disadvantages when it comes to considering the incredible mess that has been made of solving Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
Having the National Health Service (NHS) means that the importance and influence of medical/disability insurance is not always so readily appreciated.
Though it may seem contradictory, I believe this may make the UK an attractive target for insurance companies should they wish to exert influence over CFS policies. This is because in countries like the USA, although insurance companies may already have established links to healthcare providers, those providers in turn, probably have knowledge and experience of the kind of pressures that vested interests could exert. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.
In the UK, however, doctors may see patients with insurance claims as a small minority of their medical practice. They may encounter pharmaceutical company reps on a daily basis, and be familiar with the strategies they employ. But they may be less prepared to notice, let alone look for, opinions that could be influenced by the vested interests of health insurance companies. This may be especially so when such influences reach them indirectly; i.e. via medical journals or the media.
Similarly, patients who do not have private health insurance might find it difficult to see how companies that have nothing to do with them, might want to exert influence over their diagnosis and treatment.
Very often the opinions about CFS that describe it as 'psychosocial' or 'biopsychosocial' (e.g. the 'wessely school'); originate from or are repeated by people that have connections to the health insurance industry. Knowing and understanding the implications of these connections might give some people pause for thought.
As Margaret Williams quoted from the Gibson Parliamentary Group Report of 2006: '"There have been numerous cases where advisors (on ME/CFS) have also had consultancy roles in medical insurance companies. Given the vested interest private medical insurance companies have in ensuring CFS/ME remains classified as a psychological illness, there is blatant conflict of interest here. The Group finds this to be an area for serious concern and recommends a full investigation by the appropriate standards body".
It might be interesting if it were possible to answer the questions:
If the insurance industry had no connection or influence with anyone connected to the DWP, the MRC, the Dept of Health, NICE, the CMO; in fact if there was no health insurance industry at all - would things be better for people with CFS?
If there were no health insurance industry, would CFS research funding be on a par with MS research; i.e. 67.5 times higher? (assuming prevalence of CFS 2.5 times higher than MS and estimated NIH budget for 2012: http://report.nih.gov/rcdc/categories/)
If there were no health insurance industry, would CFS patients have less occasion to complain about abuse from medical personnel, benefits agencies and the media?
If there were no health insurance industry, could the causes of CFS and authentic treatments have been discovered by now, saving untold suffering for many people for years on end?
If there were no health insurance industry would it be 'M.E.' and a number of other rational diagnoses, with the derisory name 'CFS' never being concocted at all?
I wish I knew the answers, but must settle for concluding with a quote from Marshall, Williams and Hooper:
"The incidence of ME / ICD-CFS is known to be rising: in April 1994, the insurance company UNUM (one of the largest disability insurers) reported that in the five years from 1989 - 1993, mens' disability claims for CFS increased 360%, whilst womens' claims for CFS increased 557%. No other disease category surpassed these rates of increase. In order of insurance costs, ME/ICD-CFS came second in the list of the five most expensive chronic conditions, being three places above AIDS."
The above originally appeared here.
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