I am hardly an expert in health care. That being said, I still have concerns about the myths and potential truths that surround the controversial concept commonly referred to as managed care.

When we go to our doctor, we have a certain trust that that they have our best interest in mind and that the treatment plan they suggest is the best course of action for us.

Enter the insurance company. Will they agree? Will they require a second opinion from another doctor? Or will they offer an alternative treatment plan? Does the insurance company have your best interest in mind… or their bottom line?

And if things continue politically on the road they seem to be traveling, soon enough we may have another entity weighing in on what treatment is “good enough” for you… a government-sanctioned and/or government-run agency.

Does the collision repair industry offer any insight into what may be on the horizon for health care?

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Much like health care professionals, auto body professionals are supposed to act in your best interest and in the best interest of your vehicle. We identify the damage, and come up with the best repair plan, making use of the highest quality available parts and materials. All of this in an effort to preserve your investment and the safety of those who ride in your car.

Once again, in comes the insurance company. Will they agree, or offer a different repair alternative? Like everything, it largely depends on which insurance company you have, and sometimes which insurance adjuster that is working your case. In many cases, it depends on where you take your vehicle for repair to begin with.

Quite often, the decisions made by your insurance company are defined by the age and mileage of your vehicle. Sometimes even the general condition of your vehicle will be taken into consideration. Like how clean and maintained was the vehicle prior to the accident? (Is this starting to sound like criteria that could be used by the medical community when deciding a managed course of treatment?)

On the auto side of things, most insurance companies will approve the use of original manufactured parts (Also known as OEM parts) on a brand new vehicle that is less than a year old and having less than 12000 mile on it. These are the same parts originally used by the manufacturer to build the vehicle on the assembly line.

If your vehicle is more than a year old, get ready for your insurance company to start deciding what’s good enough. In steps the role of alternative parts. They range form reconditioned and used, all the way to aftermarket parts.

Reconditioned parts are generally those that were previously damaged and have been refurbished. Depending on the supplier, some are better than others.

Used parts come from salvage yards. Usually they come from the undamaged parts of cars that were declared total losses by the insurance companies.

Aftermarket parts are a whole different story. They are parts manufactured by companies other than the original manufacturer that designed and built your vehicle. In my opinion, they diminish the value of your vehicle and can cause warranty concerns if the vehicle is still under the manufacturer’s warranty.

The first choice of many insurance companies is to reduce their claims payout by the use of the lowest-cost parts. If reconditioned, used or aftermarket parts are available for the repairs needed, and your car is more than one model year old with more than 12,000 miles on it, many insurance companies require their adjusters to include them when writing their estimates. Unlike a high-tech hip or organ replacement, aftermarket vehicle parts are not designed to increase the lifespan or the quality of living. They are solely purchased to lower the cost of the payout made by the insurance companies.

If you really care about how your vehicle is repaired as many do, this is when it is really important to consider where you take your vehicle to be fixed. Insurance companies make arrangements with many collision repair facilities to act on their behalf. Masked to seem like a benefit and a convenience to you, those shops have to asses the damage and repair it using the insurance company’s guidelines. They don’t always offer the best repair with you and your vehicle’s value in mind.

I shutter to think that many insurance managed care plans work the same way. Unlike doctors, auto repair professionals don’t have to take an oath. Just like choosing the right insurance company and doctor for your health needs, one should also choose the right insurance company and repair facility for taking care of your second largest investment.

Choose well.

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