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

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Waxman: Show Me The Money

(I have been hired as a blog fellow for Brave New Films and their Sick For Profit campaign, exposing billionaire health insurance CEOs and their profiting off of denying care. Join the campaign on Facebook)

It's a little shocking that the story of health insurance CEO largesse hasn't been told, by and large, by the Congress in the debate over health care reform. The debate has covered public options and "death panels" and Nazi comparisons and cost curves without addressing the fact that for-profit health insurance companies add almost nothing of value to access or quality of care and exist only to skim off the top and keep as much of their premiums as possible. And they rake in giant profits at the same time. Now Henry Waxman, no stranger to Congressional investigations, wants to put a dollar sign on those profits, specifically what money goes where.

Two powerful House Democrats have sent a letter to insurance companies asking them to provide detailed information about their conferences and retreats, executive pay, and other business practices [...]

The Waxman-Stupak letter asks companies to provide, by mid-September, the compensation packages of any employee or officer who made more than $500,000 in any year from 2003 to 2008. It also asks the companies to list all their board members and their compensation.

The congressmen also want information "listing all conferences, retreats or other events held outside company facilities from January 1, 2007, to the present."

In addition, the letter demands more basic information, such as the companies' total revenues, net income, and total dividend payments, as well as premium revenue, sales expenses and profits.

It seems like, especially considering the prominence of the subject of health care over the past few months, this should be public information. Here's the full letter.

We already have a pretty good understanding of the profits of the insurance companies, as well as the rewards of their CEOs, in salary, options, and additional perks. That was the subject of Sick For Profit, which in the first installment exposed Steven Helmsley, the CEO of United Health Group, and his $13.2 million in compensation in 2007, his $6 million dollar home in Minnesota, and his $744 million in unexercised stock options ($127 million of which he exercised in 2009). But Waxman asking for this information puts it into an investigation. And that gives it a different feel. He can use subpoena power. He can haul the CEOs before the committee. He is in the best position to contrast the 47 million people without health insurance, and the 40 million who are underinsured, with these obscene profits.

This could get interesting.

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