Sebelius Calls A Meeting Corleone Style

Posted by Jason | Posted in Health Care | Posted on 05-03-2010

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Don Corelone called his people in for a meeting yesterday.

WASHINGTON—The government’s top health official summoned health-insurance chief executives to the White House Thursday and told them they need to disclose more data justifying sharp premium increases.

The dressing-down, part of which was televised, was part of a campaign by the White House to build support for its health overhaul as President Barack Obama presses Congress to deliver final legislation to his desk in the next few weeks.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius called five insurance company executives, including the heads of UnitedHealth Group Inc. and WellPoint Inc., to the Roosevelt Room to request explanation on the recent rate increases.

Who is Kathleen Sebelius to summon private individuals to the white house to explain why they raised their prices? It’s none of her or Obama’s business. No one is forcing people to buy their products, so if people don’t want to pay the prices, they can choose not to. Oh yeah, they will be forced to at gun point real soon.

Mr. Obama dropped by and read them a letter from a 50-year-old cancer survivor from Ohio whose premiums rose 40% this year. He told the group that such rate increases are “unjustifiable,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.

How about we read some letters from upstanding people that the government has imprisoned or pillaged for taxes? How about the family farm that had to be sold after gramps died, because the family couldn’t afford the death tax? How about the poor child who’s trapped in crappy public education, and because of Obama they had their charter school option taken away? Maybe we should read a letter from a child, who’s mother’s body was blown to bits by a drone attack? Oh that’s right, those aren’t American children, so they don’t matter. Maybe we should read a letter from a small business owner, who couldn’t sleep for weeks over the thought of having to layoff someone who’s become like family to him (or her)?

Insurers said the drug makers, medical-device makers, hospitals and other health-care companies are driving up the underlying cost of medical care. They said that trying to lower premiums without addressing those costs was destined to fail.

“The rate is really reflective of our other parts of the health-care delivery system,” Ron Williams, chief executive of Aetna Inc., told the group at the beginning of the meeting. In an interview after the meeting, Mr. Williams said the secretary should have included representatives from those industries.

I can see it now. “Please Mr. Obama. It’s not our fault. Please don’t point the gun at us.” Truly I think the insurance companies are the root problem of health care costs, but it’s not their doing. We have decided that insurance is supposed to cover everything, and then we complain when prices skyrocket and premiums skyrocket. Government of course played started it all off with their wage caps, HMOs, mandatory coverage, tax credits to businesses for supplying insurance, medicare/medicaide, etc.

The day started with gracious exchanges followed by sharper words afterwards

Ms. Sebelius asked the companies to begin posting information online for consumers to explain how much of their revenue goes toward administrative costs, marketing and actual care, along with other details of the rate increases. She called for “greatly increased transparency about what indeed is going on.”

This could make a great movie you know? Kathleen Sebelius can be walking around the room, nonchalantly waving a gun around as she’s talking. Not really pointing it at anyone directly, but they get the point. Then she says, “OK, I’ll tell you what. (Need mob sounding accent) Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to start posting all your information online.”

Insurance company: “But that information is confidential. We already are forced to disclose financial information for the SEC. That would give too much info to our ….”

Sebelius cocking the gun and turning towards the complaining insurance executive: “I think I’m being fair here. Now, are you going to do like I ask or what?” She stares down the executive, who meekly gives a nod.

Several executives at the meeting said they didn’t immediately commit to posting the information but were open to the idea. Much of that data is already detailed in filings to state insurance regulators, though they are difficult to access. Publicly traded companies report executive compensation and national cost trends, but keep some other measures under wraps as trade secrets. “There might be more transparency out there than you might realize,” said UnitedHealth Chief Executive Stephen Hemsley.

The two sides couldn’t agree whether insurers are highly profitable or just scraping by. Industry executives rolled out data showing their average profit margin was 2.2% last year, lower than other health industries. Ms. Sebelius cited figures showing that top insurers earned a collective $12 billion in profits last year, a 56% increase from the prior year, but that didn’t account for one-time gains.

Oh my world. You mean these companies are actually trying to make money by providing a service to customers? The audacity (and not of hope). How much does the Obama administration think these guys are going to make once Sebelius and Obama turn the gun on the people and force us to become customers? At that point, the government controls both citizen and the company, so who knows really. A 2.2% profit margin is nothing to write home about. Also, considering that health care is 1/6th of our economy, earning a collective $12 billion is not a lot of money. Think about the collective money Obama and the rest of government throw around.

The health overhaul, if passed, would require most Americans to carry health coverage or face a fine, meaning insurers would get more business.

Ah Ha! That will show those evil corporations! Wait….. wait… did I miss something?

However, insurers would be required to accept all applicants, including those who are sick. And they would see tougher restrictions on premium increases, particularly through the new state-based insurance exchanges.

Doesn’t state-based insurance exchanges sound so free market? This is sort of like the guy who comes to have a meeting with Don Corleone, so he can ask to do business in the neighborhood. Of course the Don is a reasonable man. He’s not going to be unfair. The new guy can do business. He just has to pay the toll to the mob…..I mean the government.

The White House has also proposed a new federal body with power to review premium increases. But that may not end up in a final bill due to procedural regulations that might require it to be jettisoned. That would be a relief for insurance companies, who say the panel would duplicate the rate regulation they already get from individual states. “If you have the rules written in the states and the prices written in Washington, there might be a disconnect,” said Angela F. Braly, chief executive of WellPoint Inc.

via Health Secretary Sebelius Debates Rate Increases With Insurers – WSJ.com.

Don’t forget though. All this additional regulation, bureacracy, panels, etc is going to lower cost. Obama said so.

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Comments (3)

I like the Corleone take, but I’d make it a waterboard in the background, with a bored CIA-type smoking, waiting for the order.

My conversation would be of the icily-cheerful variety where the undertone is that if any of those fuckers even sneezed when I didn’t want them to, a world of hurt would open.

I would only need to be unitary executive for about 48 hours. Things would change right quick. However, nobody would have to worry about the 2nd Amendment. Everybody would be more than welcome to their guns.

/doesn’t really like insurance people.

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this is why I love liberals – they claim “IT’S THE PROFITS!!!!”. Even if you were to tax 100% of their profit, it amounts to a measly $12B. Government officials wipe their ass with more money than that.

What also amazes me is that people think there’s nothing wrong w/ that meeting – a gov’t official calling in the heads of private organizations to ask them about their pricing. Like you said, who the hell is Sebelius to ask that? Unfortunately these company officials don’t have spines enough to tell the gov where to shove it (though I would probably act the same if there was a gun pointed at me).

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John,

I was actually thinking about this myself this morning. It would be nice to see one damn executive say basically screw you government. I don’t owe you an explaination, and I’m not showing up for your photo-op meeting. That person should then ignore the government and blast them in the media. They should write op-eds and defend themselves once the guns start coming for them. I’m sure they would quickly be audited as would probably family members. The government would try digging up any dirt possible to throw them into the rape chambers/prisons. If they would actually defend themselves and stick together, they could possibly end this government coercion. Of course, that all depends on if they want to.

As you know, they probably don’t want to. They are looking at 30 million more customers who are forced to buy at gun point. Who needs competition! It’s also funny that premiums were raised so high at this particular moment. It gives Obama the ammunition he needs, which tells me they are in on it. If they didn’t want this, they would even take losses until this whole thing past. Businesses take losses all the time for a bigger payoff in the end, so we know they are just playing a game.

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