Friday, August 14, 2009

Healthcare Followup

My Congressman held two teleconference townhall meetings this week and I got to listen in but wasn’t able to get to ask a question. That was probably better in the end because I would likely have used bad language and offended a lot of the little old ladies who were also listening.

The meeting was edifying in a couple of ways: I was struck by the trust and goodwill of the people calling in. They were concerned about their relatives or their friends and sometimes themselves. They wanted to know if thus and such would be changed for the better (or for the worse). They were worried that they or someone they loved would be left out or denied something by the new regime. And the Congressman was empathic and did his best to allay their concerns. He was also well-versed in the details of the plan, such as it is. I don’t know if I would have had the heart to confront him in front of constituents in that kind of need.

However, I will be writing him about this disastrous bill and letting him know that there are those of us who will not let this stand. The Congressman is on the Ways and Means committee and obviously has invested his time and effort to make the best of this bad legislation. He has, of course, lost his view of the forest in concentrating on the trees. The more this goes on the more it becomes clear that this is the bastard child of Tom Daschle and Rahm Emmanuel, combining the worst features of each political hacks wet dreams. And the very worst thing about this is that, if it is passed, it will vitiate any energy for true change for at least a generation, maybe two. There’s still time before the recess ends to make it clear to all the politicians out there that this is unacceptable and if they vote for it, they can expect consequences at the ballot box next time.

In the comments on my last post, someone asked where I was getting my figures from, a legitimate question given all the folderol going around. So I went to EdgarOnline go here the free service which provides SEC required documents that are filed by all publically held companies. The following are excerpts from the top four healthcare insurers in the US. The 10-K form is the annual report, the Operating Revenues and Expenses information is usually found in the Selected Financial Data, Item 6 of the form. These are the results for 2008. I did not include Cigna because they found another way to hide their profits by only presenting expenses as a combination of ‘benefits paid on policies’ and ‘general company expenses’.

Caveat: almost all these companies are holding companies for yet other companies – Wellpoint has three different companies, Aetna at least one other and it looks like United Health Group has five alter egos. Each of these entities provides a menu of different ways to hide profits. I also note that these companies seems to have remarkably similar after-tax profits year on year – a very modest 3-5% (nothing to see here, go on about your business) while they continue to raise rates (according to them) about 7-10% each year.

>Wellpoint, for example claims a profit before taxes of 5.1% - $3,135,649,200.00 and an after tax profit of 4.1% - $2,467,168,000.00. Leaving aside the fact that they’re only paying a 1% tax rate, according to their own figures (can I have that rate, please?). Where did the other $10,801,150,800.00 go? If that truly represents what is cost to administer their plan then the CEO is easily the worst administrator since Hammurabi and should be kicked to the curb instantly.
My original statement was that private insurance companies reap 20-30% profits from the suffering of others. I’m certainly in the ballpark and I’m willing to argue the point with anyone. Another statement I made was that any profit made from the suffering of others was obscene. These figures only make that point more poignant.

United Health Group
United Health Group 2008 Results of Operations SEC filing 10-K
Revenues $81,186,000,000.00
Medical Costs $60,359,000,000.00
Remainder $20,827,000,000.00
Remainder as percentage of Revenue: 25.6%

Wellpoint 2008 Results of Operations SEC filing 10-K
Premiums $61,679,200,000.00
Benefit expense $47,742,400,000.00
Remainder ; $13,936,800,000.00
Remainder as percentage of Premiums: 22.6%

Aetna PA
Aetna Inc PA 2008 Results of Operations SEC filing 10-K
Revenues $28,775,000,000.00
Medical Costs $20,785,000,000.00
Remainder $7,990,000,000.00
Remainder as percentage of Revenue: 27.7%

Humana 2008 Results of Operations SEC filing 10-K Item 6
Revenues $28,064,844,000.00
Benefit Expenses $23,708,233,000.00
Remainder $4,356,611,000.00
Remainder as percentage of Revenue: 15.5%

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