As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Keith Olbermann Takes On United Health Group

Last night, MSNBC's Countdown focused its lens on Stephen Hemsley and United Health Group, someone we've covered extensively at Sick For Profit. Keith Olbermann covered all of the greatest hits of one of the nation's largest insurers, who have encouraged their employees to attend protests against health care reform and distributed talking points opposing the public health insurance option. But he also took a look at the company's efforts to gouge their customers:

One of the nation’s largest health insurers has agreed to pay $50 million in a settlement announced today after being accused of overcharging millions of Americans for health care.

The New York attorney general’s office launched an investigation after receiving hundreds of complaints about Oxford Insurance and its parent company, UnitedHealth Group, which claims to rely on “independent research from across the health care industry” to determine reimbursement rates. In actuality though, it relies on Ingenix, a research firm owned by UnitedHealth Group.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo says Ingenix has been manipulating the numbers so insurance companies pay less. In a just-released report, he contends that Americans have been “under-reimbursed to the tune of at least hundreds of millions of dollars.” Although UnitedHealth Group and Oxford Insurance were the only entities investigated, other major insurers use Ingenix, including Aetna, CIGNA and WellPoint/Empire BlueCross BlueShield.

Olbermann noted that United Health Group owns the Lewin Group, the supposedly non-partisan research outfit often cited by conservatives in the health care debate. He discussed CEO Stephen Hemsley's backdated stock options, showering illegal gifts on himself and his executive cronies. And he mentioned that, despite all this, despite United Health Group's long record fighting against the little guy, their efforts to oppose reform to this day, they still have a seat at the table, even in the White House:

Olbermann: President Obama is now asking United Health Group for advice on how to reform health care. He met with Hemsley twice this May. On June 1st lead Senators on health care asked Senator Kent Conrad to come up with an alternative to the public option. Three days later Senator Conrad met with Hemsley and top United Health Group lobbyist Simon Stevens.

"Conrad has since (that meeting) led an effort to create nonprofit medical cooperatives...with less heft than a proposed national plan, the state medical cooperatives would pose a far weaker competitive threat to private insurers." Conrad said the idea of co-ops came out of conversations in my office. Senator Conrad's office told Countdown "You're barking up the wrong tree. Co-ops were not discussed. The Senator met with them for 15 minutes to discuss care coordination and how that could lead to both cost savings and better health care outcomes."

Investment News reports the public option would benefit insurerers if it handled the core of the cost of care coodination. "Only the largest insurers, such as Aetna Inc., Wellpoint Inc. and United Health Group could do that".

It's a great piece, laying bare how a large insurance company makes their money off denying care, uses their power and influence to ensure that any reforms wind up in their favor, and take humongous profits in the process. He even used some of our Sick for Profit footage in his piece.

Take a look.

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