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COMMENTARY:

The Health Insurance Industry’s Latest Double-Cross

by James Ridgeway
First published in his blog Unsilent Generation yesterday, 12 October 2009

By requiring millions more Americans to buy private health insurance plans, the insurance industry butt-kissing Baucus bill will already shovel more money into their coffers, while posing little government regulation and no competition from a public plan. But that still wasn’t enough for the insurance companies.

Just in case anyone thought they couldn’t go any lower, the insurance companies have made yet another sleazy move in the ongoing battle over health care reform. This morning, their industry shill group announced a new “report” warning that the proposed reforms would raise a “typical family’s” health insurance premiums by as much as $4,000 over the next ten years.

The report, issued by American Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), is a particular stab in the back to President Obama and Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus. Both have spent recent month’s assiduously kissing the insurers’ gold plated butts, in exchange for their “co-operation” on health care reform. The Baucus bill is already a giveaway to the health insurance industry: By requiring millions more Americans to buy private health insurance plans, it stands to shovel even more money into their coffers, while posing little government regulation and no competition from a public plan.

But that still wasn’t enough for the insurance companies. As the Los Angeles Times reports, health insurers have concluded that Baucus bill doesn’t do enough “to draw young, healthy people into the insurance pool. Industry analysts predict that by postponing and reducing penalties on those who fail to buy health insurance, it would attract less-healthy patients who would drive up costs.” In other words, some of the new policy-holders might actually require insurance companies to pay for some health care in exchange for their bonanza of new premiums. That, of course, might chip away at their profit margin, whch would never do–so their only option is to raise already sky-high insurance premiums even higher. Or so they say.

Here, via Fox News, are some stats on the poor, starving health insurance executives who could be forced to prostrate themselves for the good of the general public. Poor guys. Give ‘em a break.

Health Insurers’ Executive Pay (2008)

Axis Capital Holdings Limited
John R. Charman
$41.6 M

W. R. Berkley Corp.
William R. Berkley
$29.2 M

Aetna
Ronald A. Williams
$24.3 M

MetLife
C. Robert Henrikson
$20.8 M

Chubb Corp.
John D. Finnegan
$20.1 M

CNA Financial Corp.
Stephen W. Lilienthal
$18.3 M

American International Group
Martin J. Sullivan
$14.7 M

Everest Re Group
Joseph V. Taranto
$14.6 M

Commerce Group
Gerald Fels
$13.2 M

Prudential Financial
John R. Strangfeld
$12.9 M

Cigna
H. Edward Hanway
$12.2 M

Wellpoint
Angela Braly
$9.8 M

Coventry
Dale Wolf
$9 M

Health Net
Jay Gellert
$4.4 M

Humana
Michael McCallister
$4.7 M

United Health Group
Stephen J. Hemsley
$3.24 M

Source: The Corporate Library, SEC filings

The LA Times reports that “industry officials said they intended to circulate the report on Capitol Hill and promote it in advertisements.” What this means is another well-funded effort to scare the public, along the lines of the original “Harry and Louise” ads against the Clinton health care reform. (Those ads were funded by AHIP’s predecessor.) These scare tactics are designed to distract people from the most obvious means of reducing health care costs, which is to kick the bloodsucking insurance companies out of the system altogether–or, barring that, to take a slice out of their fat profits.


Born in 1936, James Ridgeway has been reporting on politics for more than 45 years. He is currently Senior Washington Correspondent for Mother Jones, and recently wrote a blog on the 2008 presidential election for the Guardian online. He previously served as Washington Correspondent for the Village Voice; wrote for Ramparts and The New Republic; and founded and edited two independent newsletters, Hard Times and The Elements.

Ridgeway is the author of 16 books, including The Five Unanswered Questions About 9/11, It’s All for Sale: The Control of Global Resources, and Blood in the Face: The Ku Klux Klan, Aryan Nations, Nazi Skinheads, and the Rise of a New White Culture. He co-directed a companion film to Blood in the Face and a second documentary film, Feed, and has co-produced web videos for GuardianFilms.

Additional information and samples of James Ridgeway’s work can be found on his web site, http://jamesridgeway.net.

This article is republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.



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This story was published on October 13, 2009.