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ESPECIALLY IMMORAL CAPITALISM:

Goldman Sachs Tells How to Cash in on Health Care Reform

by James Ridgeway
First published in his blog Unsilent Generation yesterday, 13 November 2009

Best bet, says Goldman, is to jettison reform altogether and watch insurance stocks rise 59 percent.

First we bailed out the teetering Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs; then we had to watch this behemoth firm, flush with taxpayer funds, recoup its losses and plan more big bonuses, while one in ten Americans is jobless. Now we learn, via Huffington Post, of Goldman’s dispassionate analysis of which health care reform scenario stands to make its clients the most money. Best bet, says Goldman, is to jettison reform altogether and watch insurance stocks rise 59 percent. And if that can’t happen, they should hope for the weakest bill possible.

This, folks, is how power really operates in this country. While the rest of us suckers, who cling to the notion that we still live in a democracy, are dutifully calling our members of Congress about health care reform, the movers and shakers are calling their brokers. And when they’ve done that, they make another campaign contribution or send another lobbyist to the Hill. Is it any wonder that we can’t seem to get a decent bill passed?

Here’s Sam Stein’s summary of the internal memo from Goldman Sachs:

A Goldman Sachs analysis of health care legislation has concluded that, as far as the bottom line for insurance companies is concerned, the best thing to do is nothing. A close second would be passing a watered-down version of the Senate Finance Committee’s bill.

A study put together by Goldman in mid-October looks at the estimated stock performance of the private insurance industry under four variations of reform legislation. The study focused on the five biggest insurers whose shares are traded on Wall Street: Aetna, UnitedHealth, WellPoint, CIGNA and Humana.

The Senate Finance Committee bill, which Goldman’s analysts conclude is the version most likely to survive the legislative process, is described as the “base” scenario. Under that legislation (which did not include a public plan) the earnings per share for the top five insurers would grow an estimated five percent from 2010 through 2019. And yet, the “variance with current valuation” — essentially, what the value of the stock is on the market — is projected to drop four percent.

Things are much worse, Goldman estimates, for legislation that resembles what was considered and (to a certain extent) passed by the House of Representatives. This is, the firm deems, the “bear case” scenario — in which earnings per share for the top five insurers would decline an estimated one percent from 2010 through 2019 and the variance with current valuation is projected to be negative 36 percent.

What the firm sees as the best path forward for the private insurance industry’s bottom line is, to be blunt, inaction. The study’s authors advise that if no reform is passed, earnings per share would grow an estimated ten percent from 2010 through 2019, and the value of the stock would rise an estimated 59 percent during that time period.

The next best thing for the insurance industry would be if the legislation passed by the Senate Finance Committee is watered down significantly. Described as a “bull case” scenario — in which there is “moderation of provisions in the current SFC plan” or “changes prior to the major implementation in 2013″ — earnings per share for the five biggest insurers would grow an estimated ten percent and the variance with current valuation would rise an estimated 47 percent. The report, a Goldman official stressed, was analytic not advocacy-based. Their job was to provide a sober assessment of the market realities facing private insurers under various versions of health care reform.


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 November 14, 2009.