Dr. Roy....you called it like it is...too bad that still too many just "won't get it!"
From John Curry, February 28, 2009
Are you angry about how Wall Street executives have enriched themselves lately?
Well, don't be. Save your anger for health insurance executives, a greedy group that Congress and the president apparently intend to leave in place in our nation's "reformed" health care system.
According to a report published Feb. 22 in The New York Times, the plutocrats of Wall Street paid themselves an amount over 10 years eerily similar to the amount just one health insurance executive, William W. McGuire, was empowered to collect in just one year, 2006.
By standards of pay for health insurance executives, Wall Street chief executives were prudent and downright circumspect. Yes, that's right. McGuire was set to cash in stock options he held in UnitedHealth Group Inc. in the amount of $1.767 billion in 2006. McGuire's billions are just one small part of the spoils captured by health insurance and pharmaceutical executives from the trillions spent each year for the noble cause of caring for America's sick and disabled.
The Times tells us the chief executives of American International Group, Bear Stearns, Citigroup, Countrywide Financial, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Washington Mutual paid themselves $1.774 billion from 1998-2007, an amount almost exactly equal to the plunder McGuire could have walked off with in 2006 alone.
Of course, there are a thousand side stories about how a handful of men and women on Wall Street and in Minnetonka, Minn., made off with so much money.
For example, McGuire's options "strike-prices" were back dated to the lowest UnitedHealth Group stock price in each of several years.
Also, the chairman of his compensation committee, William Spears, "borrowed" $500,000 from United. And, of course, all concurring directors were generously overpaid.
McGuire "settled" his back-dating problem with the SEC by resigning and walking away with something less than he may have if the extent of his greed had not even embarrassed the editors of The Wall Street Journal, who broke the story of the executive's immense self-enrichment in May 2006.
To realize such money, UnitedHealth Group continues to skimp — underpay claims — and only sometimes gets caught. For example, on Jan. 15 they settled for $350 million a class action by physicians "alleging the insurer used flawed data" in paying for out of network care.
So anyone who is interested in everyone in their family having financial access to health care — which one in six Americans under age 65 do not have — paid special attention to President Barack Obama's address Tuesday night, and came away cautious or disappointed.
Obama is for affordable health insurance for all Americans. Very good, but affordable is much different than universal health insurance.
The president is also for good preventive health services.
Such services can help people live longer and healthier lives, and should be promoted and provided. But we all die eventually, and those who die at 90 may well consume more health services and require longer periods of expensive institutional care than those who do themselves in at an earlier age.
The president is for universal electronic medical records which can make care better, more efficient and less expensive.
What we have not heard is that a universal, versus affordable, health program must be publicly administered to be affordable.
Until then, we know the health insurance industry has both political parties in its pocket, and any reform will consist of throwing more money at an already overpriced system and some legislative nibbling around the edges that likely will do more harm than good and delay real reform.
Real health care reform may or may not be a job Gov. Kathleen Sebelius can do, but we'll never know if she is not appointed secretary of Health and Human Services. For this reason, Obama should get on with it and not leave our governor slowly twisting in the wind.
Dr. Bill Roy is a retired physician and former member of Congress. He has a law degree and lives in Topeka. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.