This is good news for UnitedHealth, which benefits when patients pick up more of the tab. In late spring, the Finance Committee was assuming a 76% reimbursement rate on average, meaning consumers would be responsible for paying the remaining 24% of their medical bills, in addition to their insurance premiums. Stevens and his UnitedHealth colleagues urged a more industry-friendly ratio. Subsequently the committee reduced the reimbursement figure to 65%, suggesting a 35% contribution by consumers—more in line with what the big insurer wants. The final figures are still being debated.
Stevens says UnitedHealth and its corporate clients want to steer Congress toward benefit levels and cost sharing that can help control overall health spending: "We are providing another resource of actual modeling and advice on how proposals in the committees are structured and some potential unintended consequences of going down certain routes."
Perhaps more than any other insurer, UnitedHealth is poised to profit from health reform. Its decade-long series of acquisitions has made the company a coast-to-coast Leviathan enmeshed in the lives of 70 million Americans.
As Wendell Potter notes in the interview, this is "the last trick up their sleeves to try to control health care costs for themselves" and that they used to spend about 95 cents of every dollar on medical claims. They pay no where near that now and this would make their reimbursement rates even lower.
If this is what comes out of the Senate and called reform, doing nothing would truly be better than this.