Saturday, February 23, 2008

Lisa Girion's Highly Useful Articles On Insurance

Sam Zell, David Hiller and Russ Stanton may spew all kinds of nonsense on the future of the L.A. Times, but its writers carry on -- and in some cases brilliantly.

We see two instances of that in today's newspaper: Yet another compelling article on health insurance and its failings by Lisa Girion, and a column by Tim Rutten examining how the New York Times ineptly made itself the issue by doing an investigative piece on Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, that didn't wash.

Girion, along with the L.A. Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Charles Ornstein, has been writing about health issues for some time. Ornstein specializes in treatment failures at hospitals; Girion writes about the failures of the health insurers. Both are vital ways of looking at the health embroglio, wherein Americans spend more than anybody else to take care of themselves, but often get poor care.

Girion's article this morning, the lead story in the paper, has to do with a $9 million punitive judgment by a private judge against Health Net for arbitrarily canceling a woman's insurance right in the middle of her chemotherapy, leaving her with $129,000 in bills. The decision prompted Health Net to say that in the future it would subject such decisions to outside review.

A few days ago, Girion had an article about a state crackdown on Health Net, which is based in Woodland Hills, for such practices as paying its agents special bonuses for finding expensive patients the company could cancel. And, she has also written a whole series of articles about the trouble the huge Blue Cross health insurer has run into for questionable cancellations.

I found in years of covering insurance issues for the L.A. Times that, other than car dealers, there is probably no more unscrupulous business than insurance. Quite simply, the insurance companies frequently cheat their customers by throwing up all kinds of obstacles to paying legitimate claims, thereby defeating the whole reason for carrying insurance.

The L.A. Times hasn't always covered the insurance industry with the critical scrutiny it deserves. But Girion has. She is one of the paper's most outstanding reporters and has been for some time.

Tim Rutten too is a writer who never fails to bring credit on the paper. He recently moved on to the Times' often deficient Op Ed page from the Calendar section, where he wrote a media column.

Today, Rutten uses his background of media commentary to examine carefully how the New York Times fell on its face this week, writing so unfairly about McCain that it actually allowed him to gather conservative support around his candidacy that he had found elusive.

Regardless about pessimism that often marks views about the future of newspapers, when we see articles like Girion and Rutten are writing every week, we can appreciate the tremendous value newspapers have in a free society.


A less effective article in the L.A. Times today, by Victoria Kim, is unduly negative on a proposed Crenshaw light rail line. Kim quotes Jim Moore, director of the transportation engineering program at USC, as saying the line is unnecessary. Moore invariably opposes all rail transportation projects in the Los Angeles area and is apparently in cahoots with highway and automotive lobbies. He is not a credible spokesman, and Kim, or her editors, should have known this.



Anonymous another old fool said...

"[USC's Jim] Moore invariably opposes all rail transportation projects in the Los Angeles area and is apparently in cahoots with highway and automotive lobbies. He is not a credible spokesman,..."

FYI, the L.A. Times has run articles under his name or used him for quotes numerous times dating back to the early 1990's. Google his name to find lots of interesting stuff he has written. Yes, he has always opposed LACMTA's Metrorail scheme as a white elephant, nothing more than a colossally expensive pork barrel extravagance that will probably bankrupt L.A. County. And he speaks for many others, including myself, that agree with him. "in cahoots with the highway and automotive lobbies(?)" Yeah, sure.

2/23/2008 8:10 PM  

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