Who Hijacked Our Country

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Health Insurance CEOs — America’s Most Dangerous Killers

According to these two articles (here and here), Americans aren’t sufficiently fired up over health insurance reform because there’s no villain. The public won’t be galvanized until there’s someone to crystallize all of this fury and frustration. We need an Osama bin Laden; a Communist infiltrator; a drug pusher selling heroin to YOUR fourth grade child.

OK then — imagine a 9/11-type terrorist attack occurring in America six times a year, every year. THAT’S how many Americans die every year because they don’t have health insurance. Even knowing that number — 18,000 deaths each year — the public isn’t mobilized because their fear and anger aren’t channeled and directed. These emotions just flare up and then diffuse into the ozone.

And that’s probably because of the bland neutral sterile presentation of these stories. “The patient didn’t have insurance.” “Coverage was denied because of a pre-existing condition.” “The insurance policy didn’t cover the required procedure.” WHOA!!! Doesn’t that just send your blood pressure skyrocketing? Careful, your hands are shaking.

Let’s call it what it is: Murder! This isn’t something that just “happened” because of some faceless anonymous insurance company. These murders were the result of somebody’s conscious decision. An actual flesh-and-blood person was calculating how much more money he/she could make by killing X number of sick people.

Instead of “after further study, the HMO concluded that the policy…” — how about “this motherfuckin’ shitbag killed hundreds of sick people so he could afford another yacht!” And now it’s time to put names and faces to these murdering douchebags.

H/T to DailyKos for the following names:

Ronald Williams, CEO of Aetna.

H. Edward Hanway — CIGNA.

Angela Braly — WellPoint.

Dale Wolf — Coventry Health Care.

Michael Neidorff — Centene.

James Carlson — AMERIGROUP.

Michael McAllister — Humana.

Jay Gellert — Health Net.

Richard Barasch — Universal American.

Stephen Hensley — UnitedHealth Group.

Anyway, you get the idea. You’ve had a glimpse at America’s Most Wanted.


Blogger rockync said...

Really what you have here are not the devils but more like the Devil's imps.
I have been in the healthcare field a very long time. And I can tell you where it all started to go so wrong.
Once upon a time, anything medical; hospitals, nursing homes, etc were required to be NONPROFIT. What this did was create a self-funding facility where the staff salaries were good, patient to staff ratio was reasonable and supplies were abundant.On top of all this, costs were kept in check.
Somewhere along the way and I can't even pinpoint when because it was done so quietly and gradually that no one seemed to notice,(although I'd peg the 80s as the turning point), for profit companies began taking over nonprofit facilities. Once there were investors to pay off, the whole thing started going downhill.
What you have here is a Devil's Triangle between Capitol Hill, the insurance giants and big pharma.
The situation is not unlike the plague - although the plague was virulent and deadly, it was those very traits that also was its downfall. It killed so many so quickly, it ran out of hosts.
Perhaps this current healthcare system is finally running out. Although watching how it's playing out on the Hill doesn't give me much in the way of high hopes...

July 20, 2009 at 6:58 AM  
Blogger bob said...

As we can seem the RNC has decided to bring out the evil word:" Socialist" in an attempt to negatively brand any sort of government supported health care plan.

That's about the only thing the RNC knows how to do, which is to pander to the under-educated, ill-informed majority of Americans who don't know squat about politics, economics, or political issues. The RNC knows that the avg American is so stupid that by using "scary" words to color a topic, the masses will fall into that line of thought.

Of course the AM radio machine will eat this up and spread it all over the place. All arguments between Conservatives and Liberals will basically be with Conservatives parroting what they've heard Limbaugh say without a hint of their own original thought. All they know is that government supported health care is SOCIALIST! Never mind that they don't actually know how to tell you what the definition of socialism is, but it sounds like its a bad thing for sure, thus it has to be stopped.

I get a nasty feeling that for the first round the healthcare industry is going to win. That's the tragedy of it all. All those conservatives don't have a clue what the real issue is. Its not about them. Its about maximizing profits. The health care lobbyists are a bunch of busy little bees, making sure that no change will ever be made and that the corporations they represent will be safe from regulation ensuring record future profits.

Doesn't this sound familiar? The financial industry did the same thing, pouring so much money into Washington that after a few decades there was zero regulation. Congress looked the other way as the finances of the US economy became almost lawless, with the select few gaining enormous profits. The result was the bankrupting of the middle class. Now before us is an equally unregulated industry doing all it can to make sure it can squeeze the maximum amount of profits while providing the least amount of service.

The bottom line is that the Democrats need to address the issue point-blank. We need regulation and need it fast.

July 20, 2009 at 9:09 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Rockync: Excellent description. I think you're exactly right about that quiet moment sometime in the '80s when nonprofits started giving way to for-profit companies. This seemed to be happening in health care and other industries at the same time. It was also during the late '80s that I first started noticing that large companies were having massive layoffs and record profits at the same time. Up until then, layoffs were usually a last-ditch effort to keep a company from going under.

I'm sure it's no accident that that change during the 1980s was quiet, unnoticed and hard to pinpoint.

Bob: Yup, it's the perfect storm -- a few wealthy rightwing organizations, and millions of dumbfucks who fall for everything they say. A lot of those people probably couldn't even spell "socialism," let alone define what it means.

I've read that Obama is planning to become more visible and get more "firm" with Republicans and "moderate" Democrats. If he doesn't get this health care reform passed, he'll be a one term president, and I think he knows this.

July 20, 2009 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger Demeur said...

Rockync is 1000% correct and something I've been saying for quite some time now. I was around when hospitals were non profit and the system worked quite well. Doctors made a very good living and this balogna about mal practice destroying the system is just that. It only cuts into the profits of the investors.

The thing that's irritating is that if the status quo remains the system will collapse anyway. The insurance companies say that they are on board but in the background are working hard to prevent any change that doesn't benefit them and their investors.

Tom you forgot to mention the lobbists who are just as guilty.

July 20, 2009 at 10:59 AM  
Anonymous S.W. anderson said...

Excellent post, Tom. Those CEO's aren't deliberate killers; to them it's just business. And hey, if some people don't make it, blame charities and the government for not taking care of the poor.

rockync makes a good point, too. It's an ages old story with criminals and legitimate business people alike: Look for a way to insinuate yourself between a supplier and customers, charging either or both a fee for some supposed service or "added value." The "protection" rackets of the 1920s and 1930s were a perfect example.

Turning care facilities into corporate entities was supposed to make more capital available to them, so they could expand, add the latest technology and equipment, and hire the best talent. It was also supposed to ensure greater efficiency. In some cases and to varying degrees it worked that way.

Along the way, though, it put delivering the best care to the greatest possible number of patients down the list of priorities — after profits. And profits had to be bigger because a new layers had been added: trustees, bean counters, corporate executives and lawyers.

That, in turn, made health care and insurance cost a lot more, pricing millions out of the market, causing businesses to cut back benefits and get rid of otherwise good employees who had potentially costly health problems.

Currently, in the mortgage mess, we see this phenomenon in the form of shady outfits offering to arrange for home buyers facing foreclosure to get a loan modification so they can keep their home. An outfit being investigated in my area charges about $3,750, which must be paid up front.

The shady business' "service" is something homeowners can do themselves for a fraction of that cost. It involves doing some homework and approaching both the government and whoever holds the mortgage. Homeowners/buyers aren't always successful, but the business being investigated has done hundreds of them, without obtaining a single successful loan modification.

And of course the business doesn't breathe a word to potential customers about them being able to do it themselves.

This is another case of "business" making big profits by weasling its way in between suppliers and consumers, too often for no real benefit or value added for anyone but the "business" itself.

July 20, 2009 at 1:07 PM  
Anonymous Screamin' Mimi said...

Basic health care, like basic food and shelter, HAS to be available to everybody if we want to consider ourselves "civilized." If you want caviar and truffles, pay big time. Bread has to be there for everybody. Likewise, if you want elective plastic surgery to get Angelina Jolie's face, pay big time. But health care has to be available for everybody.

Nothing "commie" about it. The medical industry should be so ashamed of itself, and of trying to scare us into believing their crap.

July 20, 2009 at 1:50 PM  
Anonymous Bee said...

Tom, you're a genius. Mind if I build on your idea a little over on my little site? With total kudos to you, of course.

July 20, 2009 at 4:52 PM  
Anonymous Kvatch said...

As long as there is no universal health care in this nation, our competitiveness in the world marketplace will continue to erode. We're done if we don't solve this problem.

July 20, 2009 at 5:55 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Demeur: Yup, the lobbyists are definitely a large part of the problem. And it really is infuriating to hear these insurance VIPs pretending they're on board, when we know damn well they've got their backstabbing knives at the ready. And like you said, doctors were already making a good living before everything got privatized and corporatized during the 1980s.

SW: True, these CEOs aren't deliberately murdering anyone, but their values and priorities are crystal clear.

Excellent summary of how this happened -- what their intentions were (stated intentions anyway) and the actual results.

"Look for a way to insinuate yourself between a supplier and customers, charging either or both a fee for some supposed service or 'added value.'" Yup, that's today's business model in a nutshell. It's probably existed for millennia, but it seems to be getting much more common lately. "Privatization" and "protection rackets" are pretty much interchangeable; the only difference is, one is legal and one isn't.

I hope that shady business in your area gets busted.

SM: That's my take too. Charge through the nose for caviar, champagne, luxury cars, etc. But it's totally wrong to try making a killing with people's basic needs.

Bee: Sure, be my guest. Glad you liked the post.

Kvatch: You're absolutely right. I don't understand why this isn't understood by people in high positions. Everybody has a stake in this.

July 20, 2009 at 6:28 PM  
Blogger Lew Scannon said...

Making profit from other people's misery would make these people capitalist saints.

July 20, 2009 at 6:40 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Lew: These capitalist Christians sure have turned everything around. Today's capitalist saints are today's version of those moneylenders that Jesus drove from the temple.

July 20, 2009 at 6:54 PM  
Anonymous Thomas said...

This should be pretty simple.

How about some senate hearings questioning these people, questioning them about individual cases. The words, "Why did you let Such n Such die?" would make a really good sound bite.

How about a push on TV? NBC requests interviews from all of these people and can then do a story about how they all refused.

Really, shouldn't be to hard. The problem is that most of the available villain makers are, themselves, wrapped up in billion dollar corporations and are thus disinclined to spearhead the demonizing of corporate America.

July 21, 2009 at 1:13 AM  
Blogger tagskie said...

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July 21, 2009 at 5:30 AM  
Blogger Randal Graves said...

Just tell them Al-Qaeda ruined health care.

July 21, 2009 at 8:08 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Thomas: I'd love to see some Senate hearings like that. But unfortunately, like you said, most of the legislators "representing" us are up to their eyeballs in these corporate scandals. The hearings would be sort of like one crime lord pretending to be outraged at another crime lord.

Randal: Al Qaeda again? But we already killed the Number Two al Qaeda operative (about 900 times already). I thought they were on their last legs.

July 21, 2009 at 10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember over 25 years ago I was working in a hospital and I was reading an article about HMO. I asked one of the Nurses about it and it was much anticipated because back then the Doctors were evil, with their fee splitting, unnecessary charges and Golf Games. Now here comes the Insurance Companies ready to have someone control the Doctors profits and be a voice for your health care.

They vilified the Doctors and it worked!

Now the Doctors are on our side.



July 21, 2009 at 9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Health insurance is another discovery by financial institutions to make people save money with their health issues. You can easily get refund or most percentage of health expenses from these insurance companies.

July 22, 2009 at 2:11 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: Yup, strange bedfellows -- doctors and consumers on the same team, fighting the HMOs.

July 22, 2009 at 12:02 PM  
Anonymous Gregg's Health Insurance News said...

A couple of things that I'm not hearing in the health insurance reform debate is to what affect do HMO and PPO network plans increase costs, and how do doctors, hospitals, labs, especially drug companies...how do they exploit this system and make the profits they do. I believe getting rid of networks, and forcing doctors to accept any valid medical plans, rather than them deciding what they will and what they won't take, will actually reduce costs and increase competition in the field. And drug companies...when is someone going to tackle the FDA and their role in allowing these big pharmas to profiteer at disgusting profit margins, sometimes with drugs they faked the clinical trials to get approved in the first place?

July 26, 2009 at 4:45 PM  

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