Thursday, October 21, 2010

Whining All The Way To The Bank

I’m playing the world’s tiniest violin for the CEO of healthcare giant UnitedHealth Group, who turned a conference call about the company’s staggering profitability into a whine about new federal healthcare legislation. The business press, for the most part, ate it up:
Steven J. Hemsley said during a Tuesday conference call to discuss the company's third-quarter performance that UnitedHealth expects "some level" of an operating earnings and net earnings per share reduction next year, when insurers will be required to meet minimum medical loss ratios (MLRs) or provide refunds to consumers.

MLRs measure the percentage of customers' premiums that insurers spend on medical claims.
Oh whaah. The poor dears, why they are completely oppressed by Big Mean Government! How will they ever survive if they can no longer rob their customers blind? Indeed, the CEO’s dire warnings about 2011 profitability caused the stock to drop 3%, for about half a second. But no worries:
THE SPARK: The insurer's stock price fell about 3 percent Tuesday even after the insurer reported a 23 percent hike in third-quarter profit to $1.28 billion, or $1.14 per share. Other managed care stocks dropped as well.

UnitedHealth shares then rallied Wednesday as part of a correction to Tuesday's overreaction to the CEO's comments, Miller Tabak analyst Les Funtleyder said.

THE BIG PICTURE: UnitedHealth also said Tuesday its third-quarter revenue rose 9 percent to $23.67 billion. Its performance trumped expectations on Wall Street. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters forecast earnings of 84 cents per share on about $23 billion in revenue.

THE ANALYSIS: Funtleyder said UnitedHealth had a "terrific" quarter. He added that the MLR guidelines shouldn't have a big impact on such a large and diversified company like UnitedHealth.

Thank you, United States Congress, for delivering 40 million new customers to these assholes. Steven Hemsley and UnitedHealth’s board of directors and WellPoint and all of the rest of these assholes should be on their fucking knees thanking Congress and President Obama for not just keeping these greedy grubbers in business but actually giving them more customers. Instead we got whining and moaning and political donations to Republicans and all manner of false claims about what “Obamacare” really is.

It’s really hard to find any sensible conservative who can articulate a valid opposition to the healthcare legislation. Once the lies about death panels and socialized medicine have been stripped away, what you usually end up with is some kind of baseless fear that the Affordable Care Act is just a “first step” toward single payer. And God, how I wish it were true. But it’s just not. It’s the exact opposite. In fact, it entrenches our failed, private, for-profit insurance system more deeply into American healthcare. And this is why a whole bunch of Americans don’t like the healthcare bill.

I’m always amused when I see this Diane Black ad on TV. She reminds us that she’s a nurse, and she “led the fight against TennCare’s unsustainable growth.” In short, she’s reminding us all how she helped deny tens of thousands of the most vulnerable Tennesseans -- the poor, elderly and disabled -- their access to healthcare, by denying them insurance. She’s proud of this. And our clueless Tennessee Democrats have their thumbs up their asses and aren’t calling her on it.

People like Diane Black never have any ideas to offer on how to get people access to healthcare. It’s all “repeal healthcare reform” and “no government spending,” but what you are really saying is that you think things are just peachy the way they are. You think it’s fine for people to keep paying escalating insurance premiums while UnitedHealth, WellPoint, BlueCross BlueShield and the rest rake in ginormous profits.

You think our old system was fine. You think it’s perfectly OK for someone to pay insurance premiums on time every month and still get denied the care they need because of “pre-existing conditions” and lifetime caps. In short, you’re saying there isn’t a problem.

And you’re dead wrong, lady. We all know our system is broken. The Republicans haven’t offered any ideas to solve it, while the Democrats’ brilliant idea was to keep the current failed system and just force insurance companies to stop being dicks. Meanwhile, health insurance companies are whining all the way to the bank.

It’s absolutely insane. So, sorry UnitedHealth Group. You just got a profit of $1.28 billion for the third quarter alone. Profit, people. That’s net. That’s after expenses. That’s ... pretty fucking huge. I’m not going to rally in the streets on your behalf complaining about how oppressed you are. That’s just stupid.

Quit your whining, Mr. Hemsley. America's healthcare system is still horribly broken and you're still making money hand over fist off of the misery of millions.