When Big Insurance Rejoices, Something's Wrong

If you had any doubt about who some Senators on the Senate Finance Committee really, truly care about, consider their recent votes. Just look at the votes against creating a public option to compete against private insurers. Then, consider the giddy response of the industry, according to an article in the trade press:

"We are pleased by the rejection of both the Rockefeller and the Schumer amendments containing public plan options," says Tom Currey, president of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, Falls Church, Va.... America's Health Insurance Plans, Washington, is also welcoming committee rejection of the amendments. "The government-run plan is a roadblock to reform," AHIP spokesman Robert Zirkelbach says.... "[W]e are very pleased with this outcome," says Janet Trautwein, president of the National Association of Health Underwriters, Arlington, Va.

The Committee also drew praise from the "special" interests--including trade groups for the insurers, underwriters and brokers and agents--for voting for allowing insurance agents and brokers to sell health insurance to individuals and groups through a proposed government "exchange" program. In other words, the amendment would allow these actors to profit from this government program, if it were to pass Congress, further reducing how much money from premiums paid through the exchange goes to providing health care. Sen. Tom Carper, D-DE, who sponsored the amendment to allow brokers and agents to participate in the exchange system, was singled out for high praise from the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers.

When I saw that, I recalled sitting next to Sen. Carper a few years ago at a small, private fundraiser that I was asked to attend by my employer, which just happened to be one of the country's largest health insurers. He pulled in quite a few bucks in donations that afternoon. Money talks, folks.

As a CNN investigation revealed, the senators who voted against the public option have received millions of more dollars in campaign contributions from the health care industry than those who voted for it. If the Senate Finance Bill reaches the president's desk, it might as well be called the Health Insurance (and Underwriters and Brokers and Agents) Profit Protection and Enhancement Act of 2009.


Under the Finance Committee's bill, how much of your premium would be allowed to go to administrative costs, overhead, etc? Did United Health get the 35 percent figure they lobbied for? Also, can you please give your thoughts on the 40 percent excise tax that would be placed on families whose plan would cost more than $21,000 a year ($1,750 a month) by 2013? My family of three is already paying $1,500 a month to United. My Mom has diabetes and our premium is likely to go up given that my Dad just turned 60. We tried to change to a cheaper plan, but my Mom's diabetes is a pre-existing condition and thus she didn't qualify. So, basically, it looks to me like we're going to get hit with a 40 percent tax because our premiums are high due to my parents' age and an (incredibly common) pre-existing condition, and that an exorbitant percent of our premiums will be going to insurance profits if the Finance Committee's bill goes through. Does this sound about right? On a related note, do you know if the Finance Committee has fixed the loophole that would allow self-insurers to continue to discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions? Would you mind emailing me your response so that I can include it on my blog? Thanks, Andrew

After 20 years of being a corporate shill and self-described fixer, NOW Wendell Potter is a virgin. I'm sure Potter made sure his retirement payments were nice and secure before he discovered -- after TWO decades -- that he was shocked!, shocked! that there was gambling in Rick's.

Reply to Whitt Flora: Part of the reason we are in this mess is that insurance-company insiders resort to anonymous personal attacks when faced with indefensible positions. If everyone sticks to topic, something good might occur. No, Mr. Potter cannot put the ketchup back in the bottle, but let's give him the chance to help us grow some really fine tomatoes to feed future generations.

So basically your saying, if you know where the bodies are buried - keep quiet. Some scammers have been known to turn in other scammers because they got ticked off. I'm just glad when they do the right thing, even if it's for the wrong reason. It would be terrific if everyone always did the right thing. While we keep on dreaming, let's just hope more grinches grow a heart - sooner rather than later.

If Government is so determined to get into all businesses, why don't they reform the insurance companies instead of starting a government run healthcare? The politicians don't have a clue as to how insurance companies have control over our health.They should sit in a doctor or dentist office wnd see how hard it is to get paid for services rendered and or sevices approved for the patient. I have worked in a dental office for nine years and it is getting worse. I also pay for all my healthcare and it raises every year from 25%-35%for less coverage.Please someone let people that know what they are talking about,not politicians that have never seen a claim form,bill, or eob from an insurance company,make the decisions to clean up this mess.

I think a better title for any of the bills before Congress would be "No Insurance Company Left Behind." The bills fail to address costs in a serious way. They steal from Medicare and Medicaid. And they shovel money to the private health insurers with mandates and subsidies. It's a scandal. Prof. Tom Russell University of Denver trussell@law.du.edu

Vampire Wealthcare unmasks itself. As usual, Wendell was exactly right -- the "charm offensive" followed by brutal attacks. The Wealthcare Corporations know that with a national public option, we would leave their high-deductible, no-or-low-care junk insurance for a sturdy, honest public plan with 4% overhead instead of 20%-30% overhead aka bloated pig-profits for their Wall Street Overlords. "How many times can a nation turn its head, Pretending it just doesn't see?" Prez O could say, as did LBJ of Medicare, "I will FIGHT for Public Option as long as I have breath in my body." National Public Option, no triggers, no opt-in or out. Fix this appalling, greed-ridden system for people not profits. Let the Hate-triots rant and rail. LET them filibuster. I really do hope that they don't get leprosy and have *all* their appendages fall off.

There was a movie a number of years ago called "Jerry Maguire" (a sports agent). The byline was "SHOW ME THE MONEY". When United Health Care can pay there CEO 500 million.........for one year ..one year. Lets see that's 1.396 million a day!!!! How do you spell G-R-E-E-D. There ought to be a law.

That's very rightly said by you.