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Here Comes the Panopticon: Insurance Companies 353

New submitter jbmartin6 writes: The Panopticon may be coming, but perhaps not how we think. Instead of a massive government surveillance program, we might end up subjected to ubiquitous monitoring to save on our insurance premiums. The "internet of things (you can't get away from)" makes this more and more possible. Here a company saved money on its health insurance premiums by distributing Fitbits and an online service to enable reporting fitness gains back to the insurance company. We've already seen the stories on using black boxes to monitor drivers. There is even an insurance company named Panoptic! Heck, why not a premium hike for owners of this or that "aggressiveness gene"? What if in the future we got a quick "+50 cents" tweet for every scoop of ice cream? I suppose the natural stopping point might be the balance between an individual's willingness to be monitored and the desire to reduce insurance premiums.
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Here Comes the Panopticon: Insurance Companies

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  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @01:56PM (#47408673) Homepage

    It's the perfect libertarian excuse for corporate abuse. You don't have to go along with the abuse. You can just live like an Amish person and avoid the abuse if you really want to. It's all your "choice".

  • by bondsbw ( 888959 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @01:59PM (#47408699)

    This reminds me of buffet vs. a la carte expenses, just applied to insurance. If eating ice cream were to cost $0.50 extra each time (or I were to "save" 50 cents when I didn't eat ice cream), I might be more conscious about that cost and decide to not eat any than if that cost were figured in and distributed among all users buffet-style.

    This may result in a healthier population, I would imagine. But given percentage profit caps due to the ACA (at least in the US), I suspect that profits would go down as a result. So, the plan backfires.

    Combined with the negativity associated with charging a "tax" on eating tasty food, I doubt this really goes anywhere.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @01:59PM (#47408707)

    In the long run "subsidizing the people who don't take care of themselves" will save money for everyone. Even you. A rising tide lifts all ships and all that stuff.

    Really, the best thing we can do now is to make sure everyone is healthy and educated and happy. You just never know where the next Einstein will come from.

  • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @02:04PM (#47408753) Journal

    ...ever put in that car insurance fob into your auto's computer port? (e.g. Progressive's Snapshot [], where they treat it as a cute little device that aggressively records everything your car is doing when you drive.) People (not corporations, *individuals*) go out of their way to use these stupid things, not fully realizing (or caring) that they're willingly allowing an insurance company to monitor everything they do.

    But you know, it's okay because they get a discount and it's not the government doing it (*eyeroll*).

    In all seriousness, if you want to whore yourself out for "discounts", I'd normally say that's your problem, not mine - but then I realize that the rest of us will get dinged for NOT opting-in, so damnit, stop that you idiots!

  • by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @02:04PM (#47408757)

    It would result in a miserable micromanaged society. Fuck that.

  • by Bodhammer ( 559311 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @02:12PM (#47408827)
    "‘Smith!’ screamed the shrewish voice from the telescreen. ‘6079 Smith W.! Yes, YOU! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that. You’re not trying. Lower, please! THAT’S better, comrade. Now stand at ease, the whole squad, and watch me.
    A sudden hot sweat had broken out all over Winston’s body. His face remained completely inscrutable. Never show dismay! Never show resentment! A single flicker of the eyes could give you away. He stood watching while the instructress raised her arms above her head and — one could not say gracefully, but with remarkable neatness and efficiency — bent over and tucked the first joint of her fingers under her toes.
    ‘THERE, comrades! THAT’S how I want to see you doing it. Watch me again. I’m thirty-nine and I’ve had four children. Now look.’ She bent over again. ‘You see MY knees aren’t bent. You can all do it if you want to,’ she added as she straightened herself up. ‘Anyone under forty-five is perfectly capable of touching his toes. We don’t all have the privilege of fighting in the front line, but at least we can all keep fit. Remember our boys on the Malabar front! And the sailors in the Floating Fortresses! Just think what THEY have to put up with. Now try again. That’s better, comrade, that’s MUCH better,’ she added encouragingly as Winston, with a violent lunge, succeeded in touching his toes with knees unbent, for the first time in several years.’"

    "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever."
    1984 - George Orwell
  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @02:15PM (#47408859) Journal

    But everyone wants to pay the rates of the healthiest, safest, best maintained because if you have to pay more than that you must be getting ripped off.

    Most people can't understand statistics or probabilities that extend past a single coin flip. Hedges, short and long positions, defensive financial tactics are way beyond your typical American who can barely balance a checkbook. Understanding that insurance is a combination of both - not gonna happen. The only dichotomy that people "understand" about insurance is that it is an evil expense due every month that gives them nothing in return, and a magical pixie horse that pays you money if something bad happens to you.

  • by benjfowler ( 239527 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @02:26PM (#47408945)

    We do that in the NHS too.

    But the problem of having the NHS pay for treating useless fat chavs who eat too much, is far outweighed by relieving the entire population of the danger of medical bankruptcy at the hands of rapacious private health insurers and doctors.

    And you know what? We in England **LOVE** it.

    Medical bankruptcy is unheard-of in the UK, and we love it. Rich tossers who don't like having to wait for elective surgery can still get the gold-plated private crap if they really want it.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @02:28PM (#47408957)

    Often you can't even defend against it in your private environment. Want power? Gotta accept having a smart meter. Of course you can opt out to live like it's 1799, it's all opt-in, you see?

    Don't want to be totally controlled while driving? No problem, you may of course walk. Public transport, you say? Sure, you just have to accept pretty much the same deal as you'd have to in your car.

    Even opt-in isn't always really opt-in.

  • Weapons Race (Score:5, Insightful)

    by coinreturn ( 617535 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @02:30PM (#47408971)
    Free Million Dollar Idea: Sell an OBD-II simulator that shows what nice, pleasant driver you are. Plug their dongle into that.
  • by tysonedwards ( 969693 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @03:03PM (#47409239)
    When a company decides to raise the prices across the board, and then give people the *option* of having a device installed into their car that monitors everything they do in the hope that the price they pay will go back down to where it was a year ago, it isn't a discount. It is a predatory operating practice designed to exploit a captive customer base.
  • Re:Weapons Race (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jerpyro ( 926071 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @03:41PM (#47409623)

    Except that then they'd get you for Insurance Fraud or whatever.

  • by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Tuesday July 08, 2014 @03:56PM (#47409731)

    You've posted twice about the supposed wonders of the NHS, but the reality doesn't seem to corroborate your claims. There are numerous reports about the massive financial crisis the NHS is facing. Evidently the problems are the worst they've been in a decade, resulting in significant layoffs and that 44% of hospitals will end the year in deficit. The fact that the things were bad only a decade ago seems to imply that the system has always had a problem with sustainability.

    Sustainability seems to be a significant problem with socialized healthcare systems the world over. That's where the problems arise. Americans are hit with the cost of healthcare up front, Europeans pay for it indirectly via high taxes and other compromises. You'll likely be hit with a huge bill in the US, but at least if a doctor spots something of concern you'll be scheduled for tests the very next day. If they find a problem you can be in surgery the following week. In Europe you end up on waiting lists and hope things don't get worse before you get treatment. Unless you're wealthy, then you can pay for prompt care, which ironically causes the same economic divide people complain about in the US.

    There are other more subtle problems I've personally observed in Europe in Asia. Doctors are overburdened and relatively underpaid. So I've found that they tend to gloss over issues and don't really spend enough time evaluating a patient's condition. These and many other problems are the sorts of things you only really start noticing when you've lived in a country for any length of time. I've noticed that immigrants to the US always complain about the cost of healthcare. Until they start noticing those subtle differences, the extra effort American doctors put into patient care, prompt treatment and a general sense that everything is handled more thoroughly.

    At the end of the day, healthcare is a massively complex and expensive beast. I've yet to see an implementation that comes close to solving most critical issues.

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