Britain: Councils ‘auctioning off’ elderly to ‘care homes’ on the Internet

Britain: Councils ‘auctioning off’ elderly to ‘care homes’ on the Internet
Lowest bidder.

Elderly Britons may be old and sick, but at least they’re still money-makers for some enterprising businesses.

Elder-care firms are bidding for them on eBay-style auction websites, where council governments are turning to find “care homes” for them – what Americans would call senior-care or “eldercare” facilities.

The Daily Mail provides details:

At least a dozen local authorities are listing vulnerable people’s details – including their age and what care and medication they need – before inviting bids from care homes in the area.

The bidding is sometimes open for only a few hours, at other times it can last for two or three days. The cheapest offer often wins.

Critics last night said the system was akin to ‘auctioning your granny’ and a ‘cattle market’, saying sensitive decisions about an elderly resident’s final years are being made by a computer programme that is only interested in costs.

It also means the patient or their family often does not see the care home, and that those running the home do not see the patient before they arrive.

One council has boasted of reducing care costs by almost a fifth using the system.

Reportedly, a survey of care arrangements made through the system over a six-month period showed that 92% of them went to the lowest bidder.

Seniors aren’t the only people being auctioned off to care homes in this way.  Younger disabled adults are also affected.  As with the elderly, a disabled resident’s medications and other medical information are listed on the website.  Although the individuals up for auction are listed anonymously, there is so much information about them that quite a few could probably be identified:

Another critic of the system is Emma Knight, whose brother James, 46, has learning difficulties and had lived in the same care home in Exeter for 28 years. When it closed, Devon County Council circulated his details by emails to care homes which were then invited to bid to offer him a place.

The details on the email included information about his ‘mood and well-being’ and medication. His family say other information which could easily identify him was also included.

Americans are probably not as far behind Britons as we might think.  At least 11 states have already started replacing fee-for-service medical assistance programs for the elderly with “managed care” programs.  Under managed-care programs, insurance companies contracted by the state cover comprehensive facility care for cash-strapped seniors – “dual-eligible” seniors whose medical expenses are covered through Medicaid as well as Medicare.  Forbes describes the basic premise:

[F]irms are betting on a growing trend by states to move their Medicaid patients from fee-for-service Medicaid to managed care. In many of these systems, states pay insurers a fixed fee, or capitated rate, to provide all care for enrollees. If the firm can provide care for lower costs than the state fee, it can keep the difference. If not, it is at-risk for the loss.

Customers are understandably dubious:

Many consumers fear managed care for seniors will lower quality, as insurers try to save money by skimping on needed care. But insurers insist that by coordinating care, they can both save money by curbing unnecessary hospitalizations and tests and improve quality.

Well, sure.  Government mandates always involve the mysterious magic of saving money without sacrificing quality by curbing “unnecessary” stuff.

How close are we to those online auctions?  Not far, perhaps, given the online cattle call that is the Obamacare website.

But we’re likely to bypass them altogether in favor of simply having bureaucrats make all the decisions without involving any messy, multiparty market processes.  Obamacare enrollees were warned in December, by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), that they could expect to be moved from one insurance program to another without their knowledge or consent, based on the decision of a federal official about which plan is “best” for them.

(The writer at this website did some research on this and found that, at the very least, the language of the regulations empowers insurance carriers to pick an individual’s policy for him.)

Being set adrift on an ice floe is starting to look pretty humane.

LU Staff

LU Staff

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