Countdown: United Health Group's Stephen Hemsley
Keith has the run down on United Health Group's Stephen Hemsley who's leading the charge against health care/insurance reform and who was recently sending employees armed with talking points to attend protests and town halls. First up, his campaign donations from OpenSecrets: United Health Group Contributions to Federal Candidates:
Total to Democrats: $138,700
Total to Republicans: $100,500
Total to Democrats: $71,500
Total to Republicans: $58,300
Next we have the lawsuit they settled just one week before President Obama took office. Health insurer accused of overcharging millions:
One of the nation’s largest health insurers has agreed to pay $50 million in a settlement announced today after being accused of overcharging millions of Americans for health care.
The New York attorney general’s office launched an investigation after receiving hundreds of complaints about Oxford Insurance and its parent company, UnitedHealth Group, which claims to rely on “independent research from across the health care industry” to determine reimbursement rates. In actuality though, it relies on Ingenix, a research firm owned by UnitedHealth Group.
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo says Ingenix has been manipulating the numbers so insurance companies pay less. In a just-released report, he contends that Americans have been “under-reimbursed to the tune of at least hundreds of millions of dollars.” Although UnitedHealth Group and Oxford Insurance were the only entities investigated, other major insurers use Ingenix, including Aetna, CIGNA and WellPoint/Empire BlueCross BlueShield.
Keith also points out that The Lewin Group who's talking points the Republicans love to repeat, is owned by United Health Care. From The Washington Post. Insurer-Owned Consulting Firm Often Cited in Health Debate:
The political battle over health-care reform is waged largely with numbers, and few number-crunchers have shaped the debate as much as the Lewin Group, a consulting firm whose research has been widely cited by opponents of a public insurance option.
To Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.), the House Republican whip, it is "the nonpartisan Lewin Group." To Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, it is an "independent research firm." To Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), the second-ranking Republican on the pivotal Finance Committee, it is "well known as one of the most nonpartisan groups in the country."
Generally left unsaid amid all the citations is that the Lewin Group is wholly owned by UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation's largest insurers.
More specifically, the Lewin Group is part of Ingenix, a UnitedHealth subsidiary that was accused by the New York attorney general and the American Medical Association of helping insurers shift medical expenses to consumers by distributing skewed data. Ingenix supplied UnitedHealth and other insurers with data that allegedly understated the "reasonable and customary" doctor fees that insurers use to determine how much they will reimburse consumers for out-of-network care.
Than we have this: Suit: Hemsley had bigger role in UNH backdating:
A court filing says UnitedHealth Group chief Stephen Hemsley had more involvement in options backdating than had been revealed in earlier investigations.
UnitedHealth Group CEO Stephen Hemsley was more involved in the handling of backdated stock options than previously revealed, according to new documents filed in a shareholder lawsuit that is moving toward a fall trial.
Despite two company-ordered investigations that largely exonerated Hemsley from the backdating scandal, the latest filing in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis attempts to paint a different portrait of Hemsley and the corporate practice of providing top executives with favorably priced option grants.
"Hemsley personally offered backdated options to new hires, was required to approve all grants in excess of 5,000 shares [and] approved backdated mass grants," asserts the brief in the lawsuit that has the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) as lead plaintiff.
The company denies the assertions, noting that Hemsley was cleared from involvement by independent organizations paid for by the UnitedHealth board to examine the practice of awarding options at a hand-picked low price to maximize value as UnitedHealth's stock rose.
And as Keith notes that United Health Group has now "achieved a secondary aim of constraining new benefits that will become available to tens of millions of new people who are currently uninsured" as reported by BusinessWeek in their article The Health Insurers Have Already Won.
And apparently Mr. The Government Wants to Pull the Plug on Grandma Grassley was complaining just last year about United Health Group misleading seniors. Oh the irony. Misleading AARP Policies Hitting Americans Where it Hurts:
The head of AARP insurance maintains that his firm issues quality products to consumers, and assures that AARP health insurance remains a sound investment for consumers, together with its tag-team partner, United Health Group insurance. However, State Senator Charles Grassley sees it another way, and is on the warpath to better protect Americans from what he sees as misleading the consumer.
“Based on Senator Grassley’s letter we have launched a comprehensive review of the issues he raised," AARP CEO Bill Novelli said in his response to Grassley's allegations. "I have personally assured Senator Grassley that we are moving quickly to respond to his questions."
That response included a suspension of the marketing of fixed benefit indemnity products under the AARP and UnitedHealthcare umbrella, and a review of the products, and the marketing thereof, by an independent party.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is in reality a huge, nonprofit outfit that publishes a magazine and advocates for the growing number of seniors 50+. As part of its service to its members, AARP has partnered with UnitedHealthcare in the issuance, and marketing of medical insurance products geared towards seniors looking to protect themselves from the high costs of medical care, including unanticipated procedures and the sometimes astronomical costs associated with them.
Together, they are one of the largest providers of health care coverage to seniors.
The problem—and the allegation made by the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, is that certain policies pay fixed cash benefits only, and do not represent the kind of comprehensive heath coverage that seniors have been led to believe they are buying.
“The pitch for these products should be straight up and informative, instead of designed to leave the impression of being comprehensive when the product is, in fact, very limited and leaves consumers seriously in debt if they need intensive medical care,” Grassley said.
Yeah. Now it's the government you shouldn't trust, and United Health Group has a seat at the table negotiating health care "reform".
Olbermann: President Obama is now asking United Health Group for advice on how to reform health care. He met with Hemsley twice this May. On June 1st lead Senators on health care asked Senator Kent Conrad to come up with an alternative to the public option. Three days later Senator Conrad met with Hemsley and top United Health Group lobbyist Simon Stevens.
"Conrad has since (that meeting) led an effort to create nonprofit medical cooperatives...with less heft than a proposed national plan, the state medical cooperatives would pose a far weaker competitive threat to private insurers." Conrad said the idea of co-ops came out of conversations in my office. Senator Conrad's office told Countdown "You're barking up the wrong tree. Co-ops were not discussed. The Senator met with them for 15 minutes to discuss care coordination and how that could lead to both cost savings and better health care outcomes."
Investment News reports the public option would benefit insurerers if it handled the core of the cost of care coodination. "Only the largest insurers, such as Aetna Inc., Wellpoint Inc. and United Health Group could do that".
Late this spring on the Finance Committee on which Conrad sits it was reportedly planning to have you pick up 24% of your medical bills on top of your premiums but then "Stevens and his UnitedHealth colleagues urged a more industry-friendly ratio". The Finance Committee decided now you will pay 35% of your medical bills on top of your premiums.
Last year United Health Group made a profit of $5 billion dollars, thus in a dozen years in UnitedHealthGroup's employ Mr. Hemsley's total compensation has been valued at 3/4 of a billion dollars, so far.