Posted on | April 18, 2017 | 1 Comment
UnitedHealth Group CEO
It has been roughly a month since Americans witnessed that “the health care emperor had no clothes”. For seven long years, the Republican leadership waged an unending and relentless battle to collapse the Affordable Care Act, insisting that Americans in large majorities hated it and that it had to go. But when push came to shove, they discovered that, in large majorities, Americans liked it, as opposed to going back to the health care free market free-for-all.
In pursuing their campaign and sowing their lie, Republicans had no more loyal allies than the health insurance industry. And within that industry, none was more deceptive than UnitedHealth Group Inc. This week the company proudly announced that its first quarter profit had soared upward by 35 percent. This included a hike in profits from insurance sales for the quarter of $2.1 billion on total revenues of roughly $49 billion even though it covered fewer individuals.
UnitedHealth Group Inc. you might recall is the same company that gave Republicans a big lift on November 19, 2015 by alarmingly announcing their intentions to abandon the Obamacare exchanges in 2017. At the time they were covering only a half a million citizens across 34 states and claimed that they would lose $700 million in the coming year. Of course, they were happy to continue with the government’s Medicare Advantage plans which have been a bonanza for them. They’ve signed up over a million new Medicare and Medicaid customers in this quarter alone.
Their CEO Stephen J. Hemsley, whose total annual compensation is in the range of $50 million, solemnly announced at the time that his free market colossal was under siege. He said, “We can’t sustain these losses. We can’t subsidize a market that doesn’t appear at this point to be sustaining itself.” He further predicted a rise in premium costs for the ACA silver plan of 7.5%.
With remarkable coordination, Republican chairman of the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Jason Chavetz (R-UT), chimed in that day. He said, “Premiums are up and ultimately, health care is more expensive. The consequences we see from this hastily and poorly conceived legislation were entirely foreseeable and not at all surprising.” The race was on.
But what Chavetz and his fellow Republican leaders could not foresee or conceive at the time was that Donald Trump would be their President and that the American people would demand to know what their exact plan was to replace the coverage they already had.
UnitedHealth Group Inc. on the other hand experienced no regret and little if any blowback. Even though their well coordinated announcements set off an election year fire, and their lobbyists proudly applauded the Republican landslide, there has been no day of reckoning – at least not yet.