really tired…

Posted on Thursday 25 February 2010

to maintain higher profits

By Igor Volsky
February 24, 2010

Today, during a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, Reps. Bart Stupak [D-MI] and Henry Waxman [D-CA] questioned WellPoint CEO Angela Braly about the company’s proposed rate increases in California’s individual health insurance market. The congressmen read from a series of internal company emails which revealed that WellPoint was rising premiums simply to increase its profits:
    – “The average increase is 23 percent and is intended to return California to a target profits of 7 percent, versus 5 percent this year.”

    – “We’re asking for premiums that would put us $40 million favorable… if we get the increases on time, we will see an opt gain upside of $30 million downgrades and rate cap.”

    – “[W]e needed to reach agreement on filing strategy quickly — specifically in the area of do we file with a cushion allowed for negotiations.”
WellPoint acknowledged setting its increases to keep up with medical costs and maintain a 2% profit, but justified the increases by arguing that the company lost money in the individual market in California. “I don’t mind you making a profit but at the end of the year, 2009 a horrible year, you still made 2 point something billion dollars, and that’s not enough,” Stupak remarked, noting that WellPoint’s high profit margin is the reason “many of us believe in a public option.”

Blue Cross parent hiked rates after paying out $39 million in bonusesCalifornia’s Anthem Blue Cross justified its whopping 39 percent insurance premium hike by citing rising medical costs. But, it turns out, its parent company Wellpoint, Inc. has been spending tens of millions on large executive bonuses and fancy retreats. According to congressional investigators, Wellpoint dished out over $1 million in bonuses to each 39 executives, and spent at least $27 million on 103 lavish company trips, McClatchy reports.

The revelation throws something a wrench into the claim by WellPoint’s president and chief executive officer Angela Braly that the rake hikes were an effort to remain financially solvent, which she said before the House committee. "Raising our premiums was not something we wanted to do," Braly said. "But we believe this was the most prudent choice given the rising cost of care and the problems caused by many younger and healthier policyholders dropping or reducing their coverage during tough economic times."

She claimed the company’s decision was "actuarially sound and in full compliance with all requirements in the law"…
I watched a piece of the testimony on the Evening News. Angela Braly, CEO of WellPoint, was paid close to $2,000,000 in Salary and Incentive plus 0ver $8,000,000 in Stock Options last year. The company made $2.7 Billion profit with an additional $2 Billion from a Pharma sale. That’s enough for me. It’s like listening to the Hedge Fund executives or the Bank Managers. And I don’t find either the email evidence or the CEO’s Salary mentioned in either the New York Times or the Washington Post, both of which have good coverage of the Killer Whale hunting down and killing its trainer in Florida. I say we let the whale go back out to sea and put WellPoint’s CEO in the Orca’s holding tank. She’s more lethal.

Medical insurance has always been a numbers game I’m sure, but it wasn’t until the late 1980’s that Insurance and Hospital Corporations lost the point of their existence and became "just business." I recall watching it happen but thinking surely someone would stop it. No one did. Wave after wave of "bean counters" armed with Lotus 1-2-3 Spreadsheets invaded medical care and turned it into what it has become – corporate piracy. I know it won’t happen in any of our lifetimes, but I’d be fine with socializing the whole endeavor. The current Medical Insurance, Pharmaceutical Industry, and Hospital Corporation mentalities simply have no place in Medicine.

The buzz-word when all of this started was "Managed Care." It was going to cut medical costs. It was a trick:
The Health Care Industry has all kinds of explanations for this graph except the truth – Corporate Greed. After a forty year medical career in this era, I count not being rich as a source of pride. Last week, I hung around a hospital while my wife had surgery. The people doing the actual ‘caretaking’ weren’t getting rich either. They looked really tired…
    February 26, 2010 | 8:55 AM

    On the face of it, I think the insurers might actually believe that boosting their margins a modest 2% to 7% profit on operations is nothing to get exercised about. And, in the ranking of profiteering, 7% doesn’t seem so very high….it is higher than the grocery store industry, but much lower than the investment banking or oil industries.

    What they fail to recognize, is that the whole enterprise adds ZERO(or certainly very close to zero) value to the project of creating the capacity and capability to take care of sick people or to the actual work of taking care of sick people. None – Ms. Braly’s $10M compensation is a larceny, not unlike those committed by Mr. Madoff and the entire panoply of the Wall Streeters (AIG, Goldman, Bank of America) who have figured so prominently in our collective affairs in the past few years. And John McCain, the increasingly cranky curmudgeon (who has overstayed the limits of his competency in the Senate) suggests that Mr. Obama scraps everything and starts over…assuming that the system is doing as well as can be reasonably expected? “Actuarially sound?” Really Ms. Braley – what in the hell does that mean relative to the work that needs doing? Bosh – all of it – pure unadulterated bosh.

    December 20, 2010 | 7:28 PM

    “Your e-mail address is never displayed. Please consider what you’re posting.”
    Something I doubt …

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