Guest Post From Barbara Duck, Proprietor of The Medical Quack Blog
How many people know that United-owned Optum has a bank? They don’t offer any retail services outside of an Health Savings Account to the public but many companies offer this for people who have a high deductible health insurance policy. You can read through Yelp and make your own opinions if you want to dive in a bit more. The bank is located in Salt Lake City and most of what one would do with this “custodial” bank would be online of course. There are other Health Savings Accounts around of course to choose from. Well here we have MasterCard who we should all know by now are just marketing and mining your data to who ever seems to have the money to buy anymore. Here’s a company names Argus, who buys credit card information and then continues on to “score” you. We’re not talking credit scores here, but anything they can think of where they can take data, score you with some query some Rogue software engineer came up with to make money.
With Ben Carson all of a sudden touting Health Savings Accounts, you kind of might wonder how much money United Healthcare could be donating to his Presidential campaign? Why would this appear as such a high item on his agenda?
Another firm in the Health Savings Account business, Health Equity just bought off most of Bancorp’s HSA accounts, which was 170,000 accounts, $400 million in deposit. Pay attention to this as your Health Savings Account can be bought and sold like let’s say a mortgage. The one benefit of a Health Savings Account, which is why they exist is that they are tax free. Most folks get into a Health Savings Account through their employer, although some are available outside those parameters. If you have one at work from your employer, then if you leave, you need to transfer or close the account for the most part.
So how convenient is this, for United to have full on bank that provides this service, as it certainly goes to compliment all the high deductible plans they offer, right? The high deductible policy guidelines to qualify are $1300 for an individual and $2600 for a family. There are limits on how much money you can put in these accounts as well. Last I read there is over $2 billion on deposit at the Optum Bank.
Now when you tie your account to an Optum MasterCard, here come the fees, quite a few of them, so no surprise there. I think United Healthcare is second only to maybe IMS with being one of the largest healthcare data sellers in the US. With around 350 subsidiaries, to include pharmacy benefit management, they have a ton of your data to score and sell on any type of model and query they decide to build. As I recently reported, if you are insured by Cigna, you get United Healthcare now as your pharmacy benefit manager, more on that at the link below, with the impact of mass mergers and acquisitions of healthcare companies.
MedPoint is United’s (aka Optum) data selling unit that’s been around for years collecting and selling your prescription data. As a matter of fact, they licensed and probably still collect a lot of money from this, their algorithms to companies like Express Scripts to “score” you on the flawed Medication Adherence Prediction Metrics which are totally discriminatory as the metrics are secret and you can’t see them. The name Ingenix, at least in the US has now been changed to Optum.
So again, there’s more data to collect and sell and more importantly “score” about you generated by using a MasterCard with your Health Savings account. I had a conversation recently with an Apple employee and he had no clue that his Optum Credit Card data was in the arena to be sold. How convenient is this though for United to take the Optum banking data and roll it right in to all the data scoring and metrics that are done with other areas of Optum.
It’s also interesting that the Optum bank of course is marketing this MasterCard for other purchases when they can and these might fall out of the qualified areas with your Health Savings Account. It’s interesting to note that their website states that you can only withdraw $10,000.00 in a 24 hour period. How many people have that much money in their Health Savings account? Not many.
The Optum Bank says you can invest your money in “mutual” funds to help save for future health expenses. The site also lists this disclosure “Investments are not FDIC-insured, are not guaranteed by Optum Bank and may lose value”. Guess what, another suggestion here on how to get your Health Savings Account money in the stock markets, right?
Again, you are covered with a normal Savings Account here, but not if you venture out beyond by the FDIC of up to $250,000. How many other health insurers own a bank? None that I’m aware of.
Wealth Management, is also a service offered, so again most HSA accounts are not that big for the most part, so how much wealth can be managed? Again the big sell is getting more data transactions ramped up on the MasterCard you can use as a debit card. United does other “card” programs, again all to collect, mine and do more scoring of your data and the flawed results can be astounding with certain data files.
The insurer will get you in the grocery store and with vending machines, again all to track more of what you do. If that isn’t enough for you, look at this subsidiary of United Healthcare with their vending machine that does not take cash…here goes the war on cash again. LHI is a government contractor that is owned by United Healthcare that does a lot of things from giving vets their disability physical and findings and sends it off to the VA to inoculating and performing physicals on soldiers before they are sent out of the country on duty, and that’s a lot of money made there as well. Now LHI is out to get you using more United Healthcare cards.
In other Optum news, another long standing legal case of crooked algorithms created by Ignenix (now called Optum) was recently settled. Andy Slavitt, who is currently running CMS was the brainchild here and is a former Goldman Sachs banker who was the CEO and ran the Ingenix subsidiary of United Healthcare for years. Why Obama nominated him for the job full time is beyond me, but as of now he’s “acting” as the chief administrator. See how this all ties together with old Mr. Slavitt leading the way to connecting health insurance to banking? The Optum bank has been around for a while and is located in Salt Lake City.
Those working at banks and financial institutions probably are more likely to have an employer provided Health Savings Account. Earlier this year the Optum bank now is now using Admiral Funds on Vanguard Funds, a way to avoid fees and snare some folks into the stock market, maybe not in a large way, but that’s the incentive here. Here’s a video plug below…on getting you into the market and funds..$2100.00 is what you need as a minimum. Pay attention to all the “healthcare” information they want as well. Again, combine that with MasterCard transactions and more and shortly they have one heck of a data file on you, not to mention all that rolls in from Prescription data too.
You be the judge here, are you really helping yourself with healthcare savings, or are you being marketed to dump it out with a MasterCard or get the money into the stock market? What do you think?
Why does Ben Carson see this as such a good deal? Is United a big backer of his campaign? You can transfer dollars back to your HSA from the Mutual Funds, that is if they are doing ok.
In addition, this Optum bank also loans companies and doctors money, all done with funds on deposit from you. Be careful what you sign up for with this bank and the HSA opportunities. BD