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August 19, 2009

House Democrats Investigating Health Insurer Pay and Profits

Aug. 19 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. House Democrats asked the nation’s biggest insurers to provide details on executive pay, spending on retreats and entertainment, and other financial records as part of an examination of industry practices.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Representative Bart Stupak, chairman of the panel’s oversight committee, sent a letter dated Aug. 17 to dozens of health-insurance companies, including Blue Shield of California.

The letter asks the companies to name all employees who were paid more than $500,000 in a single year between 2003 and 2008 and to itemize their pay, including bonuses, stock options, perquisites and deferred compensation.

The panel is investigating “executive compensation and other business practices in the health insurance industry,” Waxman and Stupak wrote in the letter. The lawmakers asked the insurers to provide most of the pay information by Sept. 4, and the other data by Sept. 14.

Waxman, of California, and Stupak, of Pennsylvania, are among a team of House Democrats trying to beat back criticism of legislation to redraw the nation’s medical-care system. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, has complained about the insurance industry’s “immoral” profits.

The letter asked the companies to explain how they determined what to pay executives and provide documentation used by their boards’ compensation committees. It also seeks information about corporate events held off company grounds since Jan. 1, 2007, including how much was spent on transportation, entertainment, gifts and food.

Medicare Advantage

The lawmakers asked the companies how much they earn through programs such as Medicare Advantage, which allows private insurers to deliver federally funded benefits. They called on the companies to provide data on profits from the individual insurance market and insurance provided through employers.

The Obama administration has proposed financing its overhaul of the nation’s health-care system in part by cutting federal subsidies to insurers participating in the Medicare Advantage program by $175 billion over the next 10 years.

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Posted by healthinsurance at 09:16 AM | Comments (0)

August 06, 2009

Dr. Obama’s secret cure

The explosive battle over national health-care reform is wildly emotional, the issues are madly complex, and the expectations are impossibly high.

As 7 million uninsured Californians face east to pray for basic medical coverage from the high priest of change, President Barack Obama and his populist administration face a nearly hopeless task: Get concessions from historically—and stubbornly—self-interested stakeholders.

Just ask Hillary Clinton, whose own reform efforts in the early ’90s met with a blunt death blow at the hands of conservatives equating “reform” with “complete government control.” Clinton herself did not help matters by sequestering herself with a handful of brilliant minds and delivering her secret proposal on the steps of Congress, arms folded: health-care reform as fait accompli.

But there may be hope. Not just the hope Obama brings with his stunning worldwide popularity, grassroots support and Democratic Congress. And not just the hope gained from Clinton’s lessons of reform meltdown.

No, Barack Obama has a secret weapon right here in California that may help him claim ultimate victory: our state’s own failed reform effort.

Although the state’s health-care effort flamed out just a year and a half ago—hammered at a Senate Health Committee by a 7-1 vote in bipartisan opposition—it remains one of the nation’s most successful stabs at reform.

The story of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s grand vision of universal care is packed with devastating illness, seething passion, fretful hand-wringing and vicious table pounding. It features every interest group imaginable, each with its own angle, agenda and ideology. Like a Hollywood thriller, the stories intertwine, good guys turn sour, and even the best intensions are suspect.

Most important, it serves as the best road map so far to guide Washington over the bumpy, dirty boulevard of health-care reform.

“A lot can be learned by those in Washington, D.C., on how the Schwarzenegger administration conducted the negotiations and discussions,” said Jot Condie, president and CEO of the California Restaurant Association. “Whatever happens in California from a major public-policy standpoint usually rolls eastward.”

“Some important momentum happened in California to get beyond the usual stakeholders,” agreed Daniel Zingale, a health-care policy veteran from the administrations of President Bill Clinton and Govs. Gray Davis and Schwarzenegger. On the national stage, “the stakeholders are not lining up as usual.”

“Our work in California laid the foundation for what the Obama administration is proposing,” said Assemblyman Dave Jones, head of California’s Assembly Health Committee.

Californians, click here for your free health insurance quote now.

Posted by healthinsurance at 08:50 AM | Comments (0)