Can a health insurer provide affordable care when its CEO makes millions?

In 2005, we entitled a post, “How Can a $124.8 Million a Year CEO Make Health Care More Affordable?

At that time, we contrasted the enormous compensation given to the then CEO of UnitedHealth, Dr. William McGuire, with the stated mission of his corporation.  Since then, we have traced the travails of UnitedHealth and its leadership.  Dr. McGuire was eventually accused of receiving backdated stock options (which at one time raised his personal fortune to over $1 billion), and was pushed into retirement.  UnitedHealth was accused of a variety of management and ethical lapses.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  The Minneapolis Star-Tribune recently reported:

Stephen Hemsley, a serious and studious man, is known for his marathon-like work schedule, which regularly includes Saturdays and Sundays, in his role as chief executive of Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group.

Now, he also is known as the highest-paid CEO in Minnesota with a 2009 pay package totaling $101.96 million, six times the amount paid to the next CEO in the Star Tribune’s annual survey of the state’s 100 highest-paid chief executives at publicly traded companies.

But Hemsley’s big pay package is also a vestige of the company’s former practice of loading executive compensation heavily with stock options, a practice that changed in the wake of a crippling backdating scandal four years ago.

Those options, granted under a different regime of board directors, accounted for $98.6 million of Hemsley’s income in 2009.

The attempts company officials made to minimize Hemsley’s outsized compensation were almost funny:

UnitedHealth officials assert that Hemsley’s 2009 pay package minus the 10-year-old options was $8.9 million, far less than the compensation paid to CEOs in other health insurance organizations.

But Hemsley did exercise the options, so he did receive the additional $98.6 million.

Hemsley also seems on target to get gargantuan compensation this year too:

Nonetheless, Hemsley has already put up good compensation numbers for 2010 with the exercising of additional options granted after 1999 worth $21 million. He also controls 6 million exercisable and unexercisable options, half of which are underwater or below the stock’s current value.

The contrast is with UnitedHealth’s high-minded mission statement:

Our mission is to help people live healthier lives.

* We seek to enhance the performance of the health system and improve the overall health and well-being of the people we serve and their communities.
* We work with health care professionals and other key partners to expand access to quality health care so people get the care they need at an affordable price.
* We support the physician/patient relationship and empower people with the information, guidance and tools they need to make personal health choices and decisions.

Hemsley’s compensation could have provided “care they need” to quite a few people at an affordable price.

More to the point, it is hard to imagine that a company that feels the need to pay so much to its CEO, and a CEO that can accept such riches, have the slightest understanding or interest in providing people “the care they need at an affordable price.”

In this cynical age, I doubt many people credit the UnitedHealth mission statement with being more than advertising fluff. Nonetheless, I suspect most people believe that our society should try to provide as many people as possible with “the care they need at an affordable price,” but realize that we are far from doing so. Health care insurance companies and managed care organizations that see fit to make their hired leaders extremely rich seem to be part of the problem, not the solution.

Roy Poses is an internal medicine physician who blogs at Health Care Renewal.

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  • Primary Care Internist

    imagine if a $50 office visit payment from United was increased to $60. That difference for TEN MILLION VISITS is the equivalent of just the CEOs one-year payment. So EASILY there is enough to increase reimbursement 20%. Instead United spends money on fluff ads, radiology review centers, and heavy administration.

  • Dr Synonymous

    As a family physician, from time to time, I hope that UHC will suddenly realize my true worth to their clients/ my patients and reward my excellence. LOL

  • http://www.nourishourselves.blogspot.com Marie

    It is anti-capitalism and probably would be considered anti-American, but I believe CEO compensation packages should be capped.

    First of all, no human being on the planet is worth that kind of money. Secondly, it opens the door to a sense of hubris and disconnect that serves no one well. Thirdly, it is blatantly immoral in a country that is still so full of poverty and illiteracy.

  • J.T. Wenting

    Basic jealousy is behind all those claims that people get “excessive reimbursement”.
    So a guy makes a few million dollars a year. Company has a few million customers, that’s a few pennies per customer per month.
    Suddenly the amount seems ridiculously low.

    Mind this is a generic statement, I don’t know the numbers for this specific company.

    • Alina

      It’s not about jealousy, but rather decency and common sense.

      This type of compensation should only be reserved for individuals that have a truly extraordinary contribution to the mankind.

      In today’s society we reward individuals for doing exactly the opposite. When people’s health worsens or they die because of benefit denials it’s purely obscene to give these CEOs anything, let alone millions and billions of dollars.

  • in theory

    I believe in capitalism and the free market, but when people are leaving companies that they have spent little time with (in some cases, a year or two) and are raking in 30+ million dollars, its just theft. Many of these CEO’s have run the company into the ground AND have severance packages in the tens of millions.

    If the company does well, they should be rewarded, but if it does poorly….its a two way street.

    • Alina

      Not sure how we can talk about capitalism and free market with respect to the insurance companies since the consumers don’t have any choices. As it stands right now we are at their mercy. They have a very powerful lobbying machine which allows them to influence legislation and basically set their own rules.

      We merely select the best of worst, the ones that ration care the least or the ones that are presented to us by the employer.

      In a true free market, consumers are presented with real choices and they decide who the best is. We don’t have that luxury.

      Some people say it’s ok to compensate the CEOs if the company does well (increasing the bottom line). When it comes to the health care industry this “doing well” comes at the expense of our health or lives, so no it’s not ok.

      • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

        Some people say it’s ok to compensate the CEOs if the company does well (increasing the bottom line). When it comes to the health care industry this “doing well” comes at the expense of our health or lives, so no it’s not ok. [end quote]

        But what happens when you open that door and suddenly your job and wages are dictated by the government? Do we want to go there?

        I can understand wanting regulation of the insurance industry, but the end result may not be what we desired (or helpful).

        • Alina

          Come on! You don’t really believe this, do you?

          Guys like McGuire and Hemsley, have no contribution – at least not a good one. What exactly do they do to deserve this kind of compensation?

          They make money by rationing care. We say we don’t want a government plan because care would be rationed, but we think it’s ok for the insurance companies to play this role. Why is that?

          People in the US are sicker than in many other countries, but we pay (by far) the most for healthcare (some people’s monthly premiums are as much as they pay for housing).

          Their companies make billions in profit every quarter. What exactly do we pay these middle men for?

          They are out of control and the government should step in and put an end to these practices.

          • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

            Alina: They make money by rationing care. We say we don’t want a government plan because care would be rationed, but we think it’s ok for the insurance companies to play this role. Why is that? [end quote]

            Alice: So where would you end the regulation? If we find insurance companies cruel, then will we go after the salaries of self-made millionaires for selling a life-saving device, while making monstrous profits (claiming they are keeping it from people who need it and can’t afford it)? We can argue on altruistic lines, but capitalism is what it is, and if we take your argument a few steps further we start to border on socialism, which leads to communism? Sound preposterous? Look at Germany as they are successfully digging out of the welfare state (that is caused by big government).

            Alina: They are out of control and the government should step in and put an end to these practices. [end quote]

            Alice: Maybe they are, but, again, do you really want more government? It may come back to bite you eventually. Think of the principle you are extolling. More and more government just because we don’t like how a company is run? Some regulation can often be justified, but not the smack-down many propose.

            In truth, any way you choose will have repercussions and consequences. People get hurt with big government too, so I side with capitalism because it creates jobs, helps with creating more ways to help mankind (that’s how inventions work, and that’s how people make loads of money). We can say we are only against the insurance company CEO’s, but where does that sort of conviction take us when we endorse more-and-more regulation? See it through…..sometimes you have to just let people (who aren’t worthy) make big bucks because based on your principle we would have to close down way too many businesses (and, ultimately, hurt mankind more, not just a few CEO’s).

  • in theory

    Most of these CEO’s messed up or were guilty of shady practices but banked hundreds of millions for their severance packages.

    http://finance.yahoo.com/career-work/article/110334/high-profile-ceo-exit-packages?mod=career-salary_negotiation

  • Dr.J

    can there be any doubt left about the moral bankrupcy of the insurance industry which appears to have every US politician in its complete control through campaign contributions, other “lobbying”, etc.? They have successfully waged a decades long propaganda media war against providers and provider reimbursement to the point that most of us are just barely making it economically with worse to come. Funny how it is “impossible” to craft less expensive affordable insurance offerings to the suffering public.

  • Max

    This guy rakes in that kind of money yet his insurance co and others like it have the gall to send pre-authorization faxes for needed medications and procedures.

  • http://www.nourishourselves.blogspot.com Marie

    Please don’t forget, this kind of greed does not apply only to the insurance industry.

  • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

    Thirdly, it is blatantly immoral in a country that is still so full of poverty and illiteracy [end quote]

    I don’t know….on an empathetic level you are probably right….but one thinks doctors (especially) should tread carefully on wanting more government involvement. It’s already wrecking enough havoc on the health care industry…..so sometimes something that seems “immoral” has to be pushed aside and dealt with another way (like the court of public opinion, not more government regulation).

    Throwing money at poverty and illiteracy isn’t going to help. People just expect Uncle Sam to be a bail out to all the wrongs in society, yet it’s a poor substitute. But I am getting off on a tangent that really doesn’t involve health care. My point is that people need to get involved and stop ranting that the government should be bigger and powerful enough to mandate salaries. Although, I do agree no human being is worth that kind of money, one wonders if we are consistent in a country with entertainers and sport’s stars that make more than some nations.

  • http://www.nourishourselves.blogspot.com Marie

    Doing the right thing does not require involving the government. The super-wealthy have every opportunity to establish charities and foundations with their money, but most don’t.

    I have long complained about the obscene amount of money baseball players get for chasing a little ball around when our teachers make a pittance. Our values are truly out of whack.

    • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

      Doing the right thing does not require involving the government. The super-wealthy have every opportunity to establish charities and foundations with their money, but most don’t. [end quote]

      Marie…….I overall agree with what you are saying…but more regulation often means more in taxes…….which has the dominoe affect of meaning less money for those who would help and can’t/don’t. Charitable giving often goes down as taxation goes up. People rely more-and-more on the government as taxation goes up and often lose the ability or desire to help.

  • http://onhealthtech.blogspot.com/ Margalit Gur-Arie

    “Throwing money at poverty and illiteracy isn’t going to help”
    I don’t know about that, but at the very least we get to decide whether to “throw” it or not, by voting for like minded representatives.
    In the case of insurance CEOs, our money gets “thrown” in any which direction and we have no say and no recourse. And with the individual mandate in place, the insurance company money is not that much different than our tax dollars.
    So if the Feds are going to force citizens to give UHC (and others) money, shouldn’t the same Feds have an implicit right\duty to regulate how that money is spent?

  • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

    So if the Feds are going to force citizens to give UHC (and others) money, shouldn’t the same Feds have an implicit right\duty to regulate how that money is spent? [end quote]

    But that’s like justifying mob justice. Just because the government messes up it doesn’t justify more regulation. I think you have to see a problem through to the end, and when we justify a little, it can often lead to bigger consequences for the innocent (which is how I view the health care legislation. Sure some good will be done……..but at what cost?)

  • in theory

    I’m not upset at the salaries that athletes and entertainers make. However, I AM upset that people value entertainment over their health. People will bitch and moan about paying for healthy food and health care but will gladly fork over 100 dollars to see sporting events or concerts.

    Most people are greedy in relation to others since everybody has a different material value system. However, most are also NOT getting filthy rich like the above CEO’s.

    Entrepreneurs should be rewarded for their risk and contributions to society. The free market is probably the best way of partitioning wealth. However, the severance packages that these CEO”s are receiving are NOT free-market based; if they were then the poor-performing executives would be paid much less or LOSE money.

    Many athletes are not raking it in. In baseball, for example, players earn much below market salaries for 6 years. Teams can automatically “renew” their players for the league minimum (about 400,000 I believe) for the first 3 years and in the other three years of team control the player salaries are decided by arbitration.

    Furthermore, minor league players are making about 20-30,000. Very little.

    • Vox Rusticus

      I would be more sympathetic to the position of the company CEOs if their stock options were not paid out directly to them but to an escrow, from which money could be subtracted whenever the company did poorly.
      With stock options alone, there is only a carrot, but no stick, short of firing with a golden parachute, making room for another executive waiting for a turn at the trough.

      As things are, there is the appearance of both senior management and the company boards acting in nothing but their own pernicious self-interest, and against the interests of the common stockholders, awarding outsize compensation packages that are not performance-based (backdating stock options, nothing but fraud, there).

      • Vox Rusticus

        Perhaps if executives want to have stock options as part of their compensation scheme, they need to pay for them on the open market, just like anyone else who wants to by futures or options. That should be paid out of taxable income at the time they are purchased, not merely appear as income when the options are executed favorably. And the tax treatment should be no different to that of any other member of the public.

      • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

        As things are, there is the appearance of both senior management and the company boards
        acting in nothing but their own pernicious self-interest, and against the interests of the common stockholders, awarding outsize compensation packages that are not performance-based (backdating stock options, nothing but fraud, there).
        [end quote]

        So, do you support performance based bonuses for doctors? That’s a topic I think about because it’s a bit of a loaded question/scenario for the treating doctor? Would some doctors refuse those who are most needy because there would be no gain from it? Or would this lead to more salaried doctors? Or…..or…..or……..just thinking aloud really.

    • http://www.nourishourselves.blogspot.com Marie

      Good point. Athletes do have a short shelf life, I didn’t think of that.

      However, I still don’t have one ounce of sympathy for them. Teachers, doctors and nurses, just off the top of my head, do more important work and deserve more money. Oh, garbage men too. More important than baseball players. :)

      • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

        That’s because teachers, etc. don’t appeal to our appetites. For that matter porn stars make a whole lot more that most people. But it’s still free enterprise and society makes them richer, not the taxpayers (admittedly, teachers are paid from tax dollars though………which has it’s good points and bad points……..and it’s why we don’t want government paid and bought doctors and nurses. Actually, parents in private schools have much more authority over what is taught and how).

  • Michael Rack, MD

    “So if the Feds are going to force citizens to give UHC (and others) money, shouldn’t the same Feds have an implicit right\duty to regulate how that money is spent?”

    The Obama-care legislation does this to some extent, by establishing medical loss ratios (I think med insurance companies will be required to spend 85% of $ on medical care, rather than on admin)

    • Alina

      “I think med insurance companies will be required to spend 85% of $ on medical care, rather than on admin”

      Yes, but they are working very hard to influence the definition of “medical care” to the point that it would include a lot of the admin part.

  • Alice

    If private salaries are of such interest maybe public servants should come under the radar? Look at the 9000 and up with over six figures and up retirement salaries paid for from taxpayer funding. The news is abuzz over the Bell City manager’s $600,000 recent retirement annual income, our elected officials self-voted vacations and pay raises, and our First )adies opulant vacations…..etc.

  • HJ

    “The free market is probably the best way of partitioning wealth. However, the severance packages that these CEO”s are receiving are NOT free-market based; if they were then the poor-performing executives would be paid much less or LOSE money.”

    What? Severance packages are negotiated along with salary and benefits. Do you think they are controlled by the government? Or some other entitiy?

  • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

    Sorry about that messy post. Droid Dementia! To clarify my earlier post..I was speaking about California where the retirement packages do come out of a public fund and somehow it is based on the last job you had (that’s where the 9,000 people figure came from……who knows what it is across the states, but the states with the biggest deficits also have the highest paid legislators (I think the study came from IL Policy Inst. I need to find my copy of Newsweek).

    In Illinois a lawmaker makes $22,000 more than ther average person they represent (that may seem like small change, but adding it up across the spectrum means a whole lot of money). I share this to build a point that ranting about private enterprise is a peripheral, considering the very legislators who go after capitalists need to clean up their own act.

    I really think having the government dictate private enterprise salaries is a slippery-slope, although Newsweek did report that public servants often make twice as much as the same job in the private sector. As much as people admire the Ben and Jerry’s model where the executes can’t make more than (is it double) the highest paid employee…….I really think the government should butt out and clean up their own expansiveness and trying to control private companies while they have such huge messes they can’t control in their own backyard (i.e. elected officials with too much power, like one judge overturning the people’s vote……realizing this is off-topic).

  • Alina

    Alice

    For some reason couldn’t reply to your post above.

    Anyway, not falling for it. Aren’t you guys tired of using the same old samo? By the way, the same kind of scare tactic was used by the so-called communists to brainwash their people.

    To say that’s ok to cheat and let people die in the name of “free market” it’s deeply disturbing. What free market you’re referring to anyway? You mean the fixed market in which the players get to buy people off and set their own rules. Is that what capitalism suppose to be about?

    At any rate, which insurance company do you work for?

  • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

    Alina: At any rate, which insurance company do you work for? [end quote]

    Alice: Hmmm……I am a stay-at-home….homeschooling mom of six kids (one with cancer…my second child to have cancer. I mention this so you will know that I am used to dealing with insurers).

    Alina: To say that’s ok to cheat and let people die in the name of “free market” it’s deeply disturbing. [end quote]

    Alice: Another…hmmm……who said that? It’s never alright to cheat people, but if you think all cheaters should be regulated you could very well be putting your own income in the sewer. Who here works for moral, truly humane employers? I am suspecting it’s a minority.

  • Molly Ciliberti, RN

    By the way there is no true capitalism or free market; everything is manipulated in some way. Capitalism sucks when it comes to health care insurance. The health care insurance companies manage money from your pocket to theirs. They decide who will live or die and who will die broke. Stop with the bogeyman socialism all ready. There is such a thing as the common good and it is to our benefit as a society to have a healthy populace that can in turn be a healthy workforce in a capitalistic society. This isn’t some altruistic craziness.

  • Molly Ciliberti, RN

    The answer is easy, NO! All the more reason to get rid of the insurance companies and go to a single payer, government backed plan where everyone has healthcare. My physician husband and I have supported this forever. Go to countries that have it and ask their citizens if they would rather have our broken system or theirs. No way they would want a system that rewards the insurance company administrations and hurts patients and physicians alike.

  • zzz05

    Well, in principle paying CEOs with stock options would seem at least somewhat more fair than just giving them the cash, regardless of the company’s performance.

    Let’s not forget, it’s the stock market demanding that insurers be cash cows to be milked on a quarterly basis, or the investors will take their money somewhere where it can get higher returns. And who are these investors with their implacable demands for higher profits rather than “moral, truly humane” behavior? Well, large mutual funds and pension funds, who will lose their members in droves if they don’t keep up their returns. And who are these members who put these demands on their investments? Well, you and me, of course.

    That’s the kind of thing radical-type folks call the inherent contradictions in the system. Your position as an employee or a customer/consumer is diametrically opposed to your position as an owner or stockholder. Integrate that over all American citizens, and you get a vision of us engaged in a life-or death struggle with ourselves.

    • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

      I was just browsing my news magazine and found something of interest that sorta-maybe relates here. It was about Russia and how they have lost a third of their businesses. Putin is anti-business, while the President knows that he is losing income and innovation. There is such an anti-business sentiment business owners have fled the country for fear of the police who extract money from them. I realize this is anti-business to the nth degree, but if we keep on this regulation bandwagon (and I believe colleges are promoting socialism and those under 30 oddly embrace socialism and narcissism……hmmm) we could eventually embrace ourselves out of a job.

      • Molly Ciliberti, RN

        We are talking about the US not Russia. Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark have a lot of socialized parts of their economy as well as their healthcare and they are considered some of the best countries in the world to live…see recent Newsweek magazine. WOW and they haven’t gone down the road to ruin as communists! Amazing.

        • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

          Molly have you seen what an RN makes under socialistic driven medicine? :) And I think you need to reread what I said and not read into it. See a problem through to the end, and not use a band aid solution. Isn’t that what medicine is all about in the *long run*?

          • Molly Ciliberti, RN

            I have been to the Scandinavian countries for business and spoken with many doctors and nurses and they really like their system and so do their patients. And it isn’t socialistic driven medicine, it is socialized medicine or universal healthcare. Your right wing agenda is all over everything you write. Stick to facts. Our system is failing everyone except the CEO’s and other well paid elite in the health insurance industry.

          • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

            Your right wing agenda is all over everything you write. Stick to facts. Our system is failing everyone except the CEO’s and other well paid elite in the health insurance industry [end quote]

            Maybe right wing……..but agenda? Hmmm…….let me say the system has worked well for my daughter who was able to get a top-notch surgeon I remain convinced would not have happened in Europe. Wait until it’s your own child and see if you want socialized medicine where you wait for months just for a mammogram (and that’s if you have a lump. Our relatives thought three months was pretty good when they found a lump. My sister-in-law waited for months for an MRI then became terrified and couldn’t get sedated and still can’t get another one). I could post over-and-over what our close relatives in the UK have experienced…….but somehow they have acclimated and actually think Michael Moore’s fairy tales are true.

        • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

          I think one should study the history of Russia and what happens when we chisel away at something in small bites. I think Hitchens just wrote a book detailing this history.

    • Molly Ciliberti, RN

      Unfortunately for us, healthcare isn’t like buying a car. Without health we can’t have a decent job, pay our taxes, have a pursuit of happiness, but we can go broke or drive our entire family into bankruptcy.

  • jo

    Marie,
    What do you mean it is unAmerican for the government to get involved??? What do you think Medicare is, a private enterprise? The government is setting the fee for physicians compensation and most health insurance company’s reimbursement is a % of Medicare so if the physician’s pay can be capped, why not health insurance CEOs?
    What if CEO of health insurance companies had to be reset according to the US GDP or they had to take a cut? That is what Medicare does with the physician SGR.
    When will the American people wake up and follow the money? Insurance companies take your money for premiums and keep raising the fee, then they decrease the payments to the physcians and deny the care the physicians think is best. In fact they are traded on the stock market and have to answer to stockholders and the goal is protecting the bottom line and how to do that is by denying care. The larger stockholders are those with the “stock options” and they set the compensation for CEOs. Now do you see the problem?

  • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

    Well..good golly Miss Molly… :) I guess living in the UK and seeing socialistic style medicine kill my mother-in-law and cousin isn’t a fact to you? Have you tried getting medical records under that type of system when the government owns them? Going to a lawyer wasn’t helpful…she said for $400 she would go to court and probably still not get them. Doctors seem sub-standard as many good ones immigrate. It is not me who needs a reality check..and I don’t play some idealistic romantic in this case.

    • Alina

      Alice
      Your posts are pure sensationalism. I’ve had English associates and did my own research on this matter. These were people without an underlying motive to say one way or another. They like their healthcare system and they would not change it for the one we have here in the states. Plain and simple!
      And about the records – it’s harder to get them in the US than in Europe and on top we have to pay for them overhere. In Europe you do your tests and you, the patient gets the results – free of charge.
      Also you’re contracting yourself – for some articles you criticize doctors in the US, then you say the ones in Europe are providing “substandard care”. Which one is it?
      Haven’t you figure out by now that we’re not buying what you’re selling?

      • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

        Alina you have already implied things in this thread that aren’t true and don’t back up and correct them, or read carefully enough to see that the UK has two forms of insurance. The private insurance is much better. That’s how it works with government run programs. Ill-informed reactions are nof no worth in a debate. Sometimes we get so into proving someone wrong, we fail to look at the facts. It’s the same ole’ kill the messenger game.

        How about this? When your child (or you) get cancer you fly over to the UK and see how you like waiting months for a biopsy. This is why people with money like Paul McCartney come here for help. It’s why we have places like the Cleveland Clinic that bring in people from all the world. Why? We offer the best.

        Just one example off the top of my head. When Princess Diana died they said the French ambulance that arrived was so ill-equipped it killed her. She would have been saved here in the states. And the examples go on and on and on.

      • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

        Alina maybe your “associates” were the well-taken care “limousine leftists”? Not realists like the other surfs who can give first-hand accounts as I can (I was taken care of there for free, but would have preferred to pay for better care). Here is just a snip of a firsthand account of a British journalist who returned to London after living in Russia. It’s an honest and quick summation (with a caution about what some here seem to propose about outrage against the free market by getting the government more-and-more involved. Ever hear about the document all the Brits who are paid by the government sign?):

        ***Red Russia was in short, “one of the most unequal societies on earth.” And the UK? It isn’t the worst place in the world for healthcare, but that’s because it isn’t the most socialistic. Nor is it the best place in the world, because it is the foe of free markets, or the friend of dirty sheets.

        London’s just-good-enough ethos is ubiquitous. It delivers glossy brochures and dirty sheets, but England’s limousine leftists (like international elites) always look after themselves.
        ****

        • Alina

          Oh, Alice, you make me laugh!!!

          “limousine leftists” – well, now that’s a new one. To answer your question, far from it.

          “I was taken care of there for free, but would have preferred to pay for better care” Why didn’t you get the private insurance since you mentioned it was available there too?

          And just out of curiosity, where do you get the information on this whole socialism thing? As someone who lived through it and almost died (twice) for the “change” to a free market society it always amazes me when people with no knowledge of it try to tell me how it really was. History books are change as they see fit on both sides of the pond. You know how that goes, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Once was enough for me.

          I am a deep supporter of a true free market where the best wins, but that will never happen. Just like I posted some time ago, both communism and free market are pure utopia. Never existed and never will.

          • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

            I am a deep supporter of a true free market where the best wins, but that will never happen. Just like I posted some time ago, both communism and free market are pure utopia. Never existed and never will.[end quote]

            Who said anything about “pure” anything? So you would be willing to drink a bit of poison if the glass was big enough? All I do is issue warnings, you speak in concrete terms the poster never said. It comes off as a purely exaggerated rant, instead of informative.

            Alina the problem is you consistently misread and generalize and talk in such overstated terms, instead of reality, it becomes non-sensical. You seem pretty indoctrinated, so in truth, you are immovable and not truly searching for truth. Just trying to do what I said you would do…play kill the messenger.

            So, you lived in the UK? I really think you need to study the truth about the system instead of using Michael Moore’s poorly made undocumentary stuff you keep purporting. I really think you should go there for your medical needs, and as I shared if your child becomes sick give it a whirl (knowing you won’t. Americans aren’t seeking care there, but rich Brits come here. We feel so strongly about it, we live in terror of getting sick while there).

            And here is a wonderful book selection I highly recommend you actually take the time to read:
            The Battle: How the Fight Between Free Enterprise and Big Government Will Shape America’s Future (May 2010, Basic Books). This succinct work by Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute

          • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

            Alina here you go. This definitely isn’t funny and it’s from a UK journalist who quotes an official report from the Healthcare Commision (this article discussses the private insurance there I wrote about). The comment section is just as scary as the actual system. Firsthand experiences from travelers who are just as terrified as my husband and I (he is a Brit):

            http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=31173

            snippet:
            Then consider, my friends, Exhibit A. The foul sub-third-world conditions I’ve just described came not from my overactive imagination but from a newly-published official report into the parlous state of affairs at two state-run hospitals in the central English district of Mid Staffordshire.

            According to the report by the Healthcare Commission, standards of care were so “appalling” that between 2005 and 2008 as many as 1,200 patients may have died unnecessarily.

            You should see the photo shrine the victim’s families have erected on one of the walls inside the hospital — like a mini-9/11 memorial; it’s a heartbreaking sight. There are pictures of the loved ones while they were still smiling and healthy, their dates written underneath. And there are printed sheets detailing some of the myriad ways they suffered and died:

            “Medication not monitored for side effects.”

            “Staff shouting, squealing and laughing throughout the night disturbing patients”

            “Patients not helped to the toilet, told to use a bed pan — staff too busy.”

            “Patients not fed or given fluids — food trays just left on the table out of reach.”
            It has been described by the National Health Service’s medical director as a “gross and terrible breach of trust” of patients, though why he should be so shocked is anybody’s guess. It’s not as though this sort of thing hasn’t happened in Britain’s magnificent “free” healthcare system many, many times before

            This, remember, is the “service” so poor that 55 per cent of senior doctors take out private medical insurance so they don’t have to use it; the one where one in 300 hospital deaths is the result of a patient contracting an infection completely unrelated to the one they came in to have treated; where the cancer survival rates are the worst in the civilized world; where more patients die in hospital in a year — 40,000 — than were killed in the 2006 Iraqi civil war.

  • http://www.dworkininsurance.com Earl Dworkin

    The key to this article is to find out what portion of Stephen Hemsley income is received from the AARP/United Health Care relationship/ Remember United Health Care is the Sole Carrier for AARP for their Medicare Supplement Sales. IT makes it easy when the AARP is cosidered a Non Profit organization and is sitting at the table in the present Government Health Care program. Can it get any better for United Health. I think It’s time for Congress to look into this Controlled situation in the Senior Market place. If you look close thats where Stephen receives the majority of his pay package.Wake up America!

    • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

      This is very insightful, and a very good point about AARP. It’s a reason I like the Wisconsin Medicaid inroads because lobbyists were left at the wayside, money was saved, and service expanded through getting legislators away from the money.

  • Alina

    To Alice –

    “So you would be willing to drink a bit of poison if the glass was big enough?” I think this statement fits you perfectly. You’re willing to give the health insurance CEOs a ton of money all in the name of the so-called free market, regardless of the fact that the system we currently have is completely dysfunctional. Your argument is that otherwise we would find ourselves in socialism or communism. What makes you an expert in these matters? Have you lived in a socialist society to see what it really means and how does it compare to the US? When you did live in one and you had tanks pointed at you and people shooting at you and when you actually fought for the free market only to find out that there is no real difference between the two societies you have a different perspective. Your comments are typical of right wing individuals who try to trash everyone who doesn’t agree with them, no matter what the reality is. You can’t take away someone’s life experiences just because they don’t fit your agenda and just because you try to cheapen and disregard them.

    The UK journalist is your source? His first 2 paragraphs are a dead give away of the fact that he is nothing more than a yellow journalists. After reading that I would not believe a word he says. You seem to want to focus on other countries a lot, something that you don’t really know anything about, fact that is deeply evident from what you post.

    Why don’t we just talk about the situation here in the US and how the “wonderful” system we have leaves tens of millions of people uninsured and underinsured?

    Here is an article about the uninsured alone.

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/09/18/deaths.health.insurance/index.html

    If you add how many others are underinsured, you know, high deductible plans or having serious coverage limitations, the number is at least 87 million people. This represents 28.5% of the US population. How is this ok especially when we already pay $2.5 trillion a year? And you call this a free market? Why, because the insurance companies CEOs are free to take our money as they please and give us substandard coverage in return?

    Interesting enough you disregarded my question as to why you didn’t buy yourself private coverage while in Britain, since it is available and you seem to be an avid supporter of it.

    “American Enterprise Institute” – I’m well aware with the ones associated with this institution. I rest my case.

    • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

      Interesting enough you disregarded my question as to why you didn’t buy yourself private coverage while in Britain, since it is available and you seem to be an avid supporter of it. [end quote]

      Alina over and over you just won’t listen. We can’t buy it, we don’t work there, we visit there. It’s unavailable to us. You purchase it through an employer. We checked into travelers insurance, but they told us we had to use the national hospitals (my husband can get that free). You simply don’t understand the system or situations. If you had even the basic understanding of the system their private insurance doesn’t work like our own (and you still wait, just not as long. The two insurances often overllap and you have to use one for some services and the other for other).

      Why play the “A ha” game, and miss the whole picture that is being laid-out for you…….you believe in a false scenario and we definitely don’t want to duplicate the UK. Learn from their mistakes and online posts instead of reacting.

      You simply fail to see that government run medical is sub-standard. Maybe you are the one who should use the VA facilities in this country. When you get quite ill how about you think about using the VA? Or maybe you would like to go to Cuba? Don’t see Michael Moore going there either.

      If you would stop reacting and read you would see my whole point was to get people (like you) to stop thinking the government is the answer. I suggested the uninsured get put on Kaiser. All you do is personal attacks on any suggestion that bigger government is not the answer.

      • Alina

        Alice says: “Alina over and over you just won’t listen. We can’t buy it, we don’t work there, we visit there. It’s unavailable to us. You purchase it through an employer. We checked into travelers insurance, but they told us we had to use the national hospitals (my husband can get that free).”

        Hmm, interesting….. Let’s see:

        On August 19, 2010 at 5:51 pm, you posted the following comment: “I guess living in the UK and seeing socialistic style medicine kill my mother-in-law and cousin isn’t a fact to you?”

        Did you not imply in this comment that you actually lived in the UK at some point? Or is this not your post?

        Then on August 20, 2010 at 9:27 am you posted the following: “How about this? When your child (or you) get cancer you fly over to the UK and see how you like waiting months for a biopsy.”

        Again, you’re imlying you have actually experienced that system. How is it that when you’re called on the fluctuations of your statements you’re blaming others for it?

        Alice says – “If you would stop reacting and read you would see my whole point was to get people (like you) to stop thinking the government is the answer.”

        Wouldn’t that be nice for you guys to make all people think the same as you, so there is no challenge to anything you do? Careful dear, you sound like the socialists you say you despise.

        Alice says – “All you do is personal attacks on any suggestion that bigger government is not the answer.”

        So, you consider one’s experience sharing with a personal attack on you? Why? Because it doesn’t fit your agenda and I’m actually challenging your non-factual comments?

        Why don’t we make this deal? When you’ll actually get to have my life experiences come talk to me about comparing the two systems. Until then please let’s leave the expertise to the people who really know what they’re talking about.

      • Alina

        Oh and so that we can keep things straight here. I’ve also just noticed another post you had on August 18, 2010 at 10:04 pm on the “I’m a patient, not a consumer” article, where you also claim the following:

        “I lived in the UK and felt the care was sub-standard, so I against that type of socialized medicine.”

        Now you’re saying that you’re “just visiting.”

        • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice Robertson

          Well………Alina you just proved my point that you are playing kill the messenger. But because the messenger is honest all you had to do was ask. Yes, I lived in the UK before private insurance was available. It’s truly a waste of your time to try to wade through my posts because I have no agenda other than the truth and it will all fit. Why not dissect the faulty system in the UK we don’t want to duplicate, instead of me? I am not anonymous…I am willing to talk to you privately about anything here…so please write to me with any questions about my opinions or life. My life is an open book. My address is: arobert6@juno.com But, then again, if you prefer public that’s fine too. I just worry we are boring people to death.

          I have tried to tell you I met my husband in the UK…lived there…and he immigrated..but visited all the time. I used to go with him because my relatives are there. We lived in terror of the system, or getting sick while there (which did happen…..SCARY! I remember *while visiting there and pregnant) being told to get up on the exam table and there were real linen sheets that had been there all day with blood on them. That’s why the journalist labeled the UK system as the system of “dirty sheets”. If you would read instead of react that should scare you. In America we are terrified of lab coats and ties, but they have used sheets).

          If you spent as much time reading my posts trying to find an error that isn’t there and would spend it researching the system you would agree with me and be very grateful that if you get cancer in the US you will receive far better treatment that in the UK.

        • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

          Alina I have answered this but I guess some of some posts are being deleted?

          I don’t have time to type and then not see the posts, so I will answer quickly and probably move on. I think in one of the posts I gave my e-mail address, but maybe that isn’t allowed. You can click on my Twitter and see my e-mail address. If posts are being censored when there aren’t personal attacks I am confused why one person would be allowed to post, and not a response?

          What I said is that you have proven my point about playing kill the messenger. If you spent as much time dissecting the UK healthcare system as you did my posts you would know that I did live in the UK, married someone from there, he immigrated here and visited there a lot (with much intrepetation about getting sick).

          No this isn’t a conspiracy. I am not a spy. I tell the truth. And I guess that’s in a nutshell because I am fearful to type much more if posts are being deleted. I don’t fear any questions or the truth.

  • HJ

    Alice says, “Americans aren’t seeking care there, but rich Brits come here. We feel so strongly about it, we live in terror of getting sick while there”

    The most popular places for Americans to go for health care are Argentina, Brunei, Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Jordan, Lithuania, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, and recently, Saudi Arabia, UAE, South Korea, Tunisia and New Zealand.

    I would guess, if you had to pay for you child’s cancer treatment in the free market you advocate, you would not be so happy with your experiences in the US.

    • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

      I would guess, if you had to pay for you child’s cancer treatment in the free market you
      advocate, you would not be so happy with your experiences in the US. [end quote]

      HJ you would assume wrong. I would sell my home, my soul, my blood and stay right here in the US. As many flaws as this system has, if I had no insurance I would have pulled any stunt (like those who walk coast-to-coast), begged at the hospital, got on a payment plan and a job to pay them back. Cleveland Clinic offers discounts for those making over six figures (I share that to show there is help). If people would just seek help instead of ranting they may just find a stone they didn’t overturn.

      Until your child is sick with cancer it must be great to sit in judgement.

      • HJ

        Alice says, “HJ you would assume wrong. I would sell my home, my soul, my blood and stay right here in the US.”

        You would take government assistance? When your free market solution doesn’t work, you rely on the socialist government for help? Or do you let your child die when the money runs out?

        Until your child is uninsured it must be great to sit in judgement.

  • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

    The most popular places for Americans to go for health care are Argentina, Brunei, Cuba, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Jordan, Lithuania, Malaysia, The Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, and recently, Saudi Arabia, UAE, South Korea, Tunisia and New Zealand. [end quote]

    They seek care in these countries for optional treatments (a lot of plastic surgery and gastric bypass, etc.), or to save money. Guess where I read that? Some insurance companies are even realizing it’s cheaper to pay the airfare and hotel in foreign countries in a money saving effort. You know I have a close friend who went to one of these countries for their sex change operation. I won’t share the details on that endeavor though. Yes, they took out a home equity loan.

  • HJ

    Alice says, “Alina the problem is you consistently misread and generalize and talk in such overstated terms, instead of reality, it becomes non-sensical. You seem pretty indoctrinated, so in truth, you are immovable and not truly searching for truth. Just trying to do what I said you would do…play kill the messenger.”

    Wow, this is how I feel when I read Alice’s comments. Hmmm. I’ve been generalized into the communist category.

    Alice says, “Wait until it’s your own child and see if you want socialized medicine where you wait for months just for a mammogram (and that’s if you have a lump. ”

    I had a lump and I had to wait two months for a mammogram. My father had to wait 9 months for his knee replacement. Wait until it’s your child and you can’t afford to pay for treatment.

    • http://www.twitter.com/alicearobertson Alice

      HJ says: Wow, this is how I feel when I read Alice’s comments. HJ Hmmm. I’ve been generalized into the communist category.

      Alice says, “Wait until it’s your own child and see if you want socialized medicine where you wait for months just for a mammogram (and that’s if you have a lump. ”

      I had a lump and I had to wait two months for a mammogram. My father had to wait 9 months for his knee replacement. Wait until it’s your child and you can’t afford to pay for treatment. [end quote]

      Alice replies: So you are a woman, employed by the state? And to think I thought government workers had such great insurance? It’s not the system, but probably your choice of hospital systems that caused the wait. I am offered one on the day I call (of course, my being a nitwit stay-at-home mom might mean I have a better choice of hours to go in?)

      No one called you a communist (why pigeon-hole youself like that? Or claim someone else is doing?), just warnings about the sandwich theory, and the Humanist Manifesto you quoted from (that’s a very interesting document(s) to study). Can’t say I mind that you don’t agree. At least I can back up what I say. A post from yesterday was snipped off by you (the part that would have proven what I said as true). I just couldn’t be bothered posting the paragraph you cut offn(but I am willing to if you would like that…because I want the whole truth expose because some readers want the whole picture and not pieces of it).

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