A roosting chicken prepares for landing

I posted the following this past April in response to absurd prior authorization requests and denials by private health insurers:

[P]atients have private insurance that they and/or their employers pay for so it will be there when they need it.

[I]f I were in charge of a private insurance company I would be doing my damnest to demonstrate how well the private sector works.

Now there’s this:

Fifty-two health and accident insurance companies have until Friday to turn over salary details on employees who make more than $500,000 a year.

Last month, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, asked for the figures as part of a broader look at how health insurers operate.

And last week, Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., who runs the Senate Commerce panel, also asked the biggest health insurers to cough up particulars of premium dollars spent on patient care.

Some policy watchers believe the congressional push has the potential to shake things up. In fact, a controversy over CEO pay could renew debate over a public option, a government-run health insurance plan that would compete with private insurers.

Public option advocates hope outrage over big-time salaries prompts a new rally for their case.

“I think they will get some information that will surprise policyholders, because there’s not a great deal of awareness of how much these executives do make,” said Wendell Potter, a former Cigna vice president who now works for a left-leaning media group. “A lot of money they’re paying in premiums is going to make executives richer and richer every year.”


In the early 1990s, health insurers spent more than 90 cents of every dollar collected on patient care, but that has been declining. In 2007, national publicly-traded health companies spent about 81 cents of every dollar on patient care, according to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers report.

Advocates who want executive pay included in the reform debate want to reverse that trend and force insurers to spend more on patient care.

Just because the American people appear to be rejecting government-run healthcare, that doesn’t mean that they are in love with the terms of their private health insurance.  Health insurance carriers have been cutting benefits and raising premiums.  Don’t forget that grassroots populism can target big business just as easily as big government.

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