This tells you everything you need to know about our insurance company "partners" in health care reform:
An investigation by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations showed that health insurers WellPoint Inc., UnitedHealth Group and Assurant Inc. canceled the coverage of more than 20,000 people, allowing the companies to avoid paying more than $300 million in medical claims over a five-year period.
It also found that policyholders with breast cancer, lymphoma and more than 1,000 other conditions were targeted for rescission and that employees were praised in performance reviews for terminating the policies of customers with expensive illnesses.
"No one can defend, and I certainly cannot defend, the practice of canceling coverage after the fact," said Rep. Michael C. Burgess (R-Tex.), a member of the committee. "There is no acceptable minimum to denying coverage after the fact."
The executives -- Richard A. Collins, chief executive of UnitedHealth's Golden Rule Insurance Co.; Don Hamm, chief executive of Assurant Health and Brian Sassi, president of consumer business for WellPoint Inc., parent of Blue Cross of California -- were courteous and matter-of-fact in their testimony.
But they would not commit to limiting rescissions to only policyholders who intentionally lie or commit fraud to obtain coverage, a refusal that met with dismay from legislators on both sides of the political aisle.
Experts said it could undermine the industry's efforts to influence healthcare-overhaul plans working their way toward the White House.
"Talk about tone deaf," said Robert Laszewski, a former health insurance executive who now counsels companies as a consultant.
Sassi said rescissions are necessary to prevent people who lie about preexisting conditions from obtaining coverage and driving up costs for others.
"I want to emphasize that rescission is about stopping fraud and material misrepresentations that contribute to spiraling healthcare costs," Sassi told the committee.
But rescission victims testified that their policies were canceled for inadvertent omissions or honest mistakes about medical history on their applications. Rescission, they said, was about improving corporate profits rather than rooting out fraud.
A Texas nurse said she lost her coverage, after she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, for failing to disclose a visit to a dermatologist for acne.
The sister of an Illinois man who died of lymphoma said his policy was rescinded for the failure to report a possible aneurysm and gallstones that his physician noted in his chart but did not discuss with him.
The committee's investigation found that WellPoint's Blue Cross targeted individuals with more than 1,400 conditions, including breast cancer, lymphoma, pregnancy and high blood pressure. And the committee obtained documents that showed Blue Cross supervisors praised employees in performance reviews for rescinding policies.
One employee, for instance, received a perfect 5 for "exceptional performance" on an evaluation that noted the employee's role in dropping thousands of policyholders and avoiding nearly $10 million worth of medical care.
Late in the hearing, Stupak, the committee chairman, put the executives on the spot. Stupak asked each of them whether he would at least commit his company to immediately stop rescissions except where they could show "intentional fraud."
The answer from all three executives:
Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) said that a public insurance plan should be a part of any overhaul because it would force private companies to treat consumers fairly or risk losing them.
"This is precisely why we need a public option," Dingell said.
Those of you who are struggling to pay for your generic medicines or wondering why the doctor is charging you a $5.00 co-pay, give some thought to these facts about how our health care dollars are allocated. At the end of this post, there is a list of 23 health companies I found on Forbes.com, what the CEO was paid in 2005, and the average paid to the CEO in the past five years.
Imagine adding vice presidents, Board of Directors, stock holders and the other 200-300 other companies all cashing in on your health to that total at the bottom...
* United Health Group CEO: William W McGuire 2005: 124.8 mil 5-year: 342 mil
* Forest Labs CEO: Howard Solomon 2005: 92.1 mil 5-year: 295 mil
* Caremark Rx CEO: Edwin M Crawford 2005: 77.9 mil 5-year: 93.6 mil
* Abbott Lab CEO: Miles White 2005: 26.2 mil 5-year: 25.8 mil
* Aetna CEO: John Rowe 2005: 22.1 mil 5-year:57.8 mil
* Amgen CEO: Kevin Sharer 2005:5.7 mil 5-year:59.5 mil
* Bectin-Dickinson CEO: Edwin Ludwig 2005: 10 mil 5-year:18 mil
* Boston Scientific CEO: 2005:38.1 mil 5-year:45 mil
* Cardinal Health CEO: James Tobin 2005:1.1 mil 5-year:33.5 mil
* Cigna CEO: H. Edward Hanway 2005:13.3 mil 5-year:62.8 mil
* Genzyme CEO: Henri Termeer 2005: 19 mil 5-year:60.7 mil
* Humana CEO: Michael McAllister 2005:2.3 mil 5-year:12.9 mil
* Johnson & Johnson CEO: William Weldon 2005:6.1 mil 5-year:19.7 mil
* Laboratory Corp America CEO: Thomas MacMahon 2005:7.9 mil 5-year:41.8 mil
* Eli Lilly CEO: Sidney Taurel 2005:7.2 mil 5-year:37.9 mil
* McKesson CEO: John Hammergen 2005: 13.4 mil 5-year:31.2 mil
* Medtronic CEO: Arthur Collins 2005: 4.7 mil 5-year:39 mil
* Merck Raymond Gilmartin CEO: 2005: 37.8 mil 5-year:49.6 mil
* PacifiCare Health CEO: Howard Phanstiel 2005: 3.4 mil 5-year: 8.5 mil
* Pfizer CEO: Henry McKinnell 2005: 14 mil 5-year: 74 mil
* Well Choice CEO: Michael Stocker 2005: 3.2 mil 5-year: 10.7 mil
* WellPoint CEO: Larry Glasscock 2005: 23 mil 5-year: 46.8 mil
* Wyeth CEO: Robert Essner 2005:6.5 mil 5-year: 28.9 mil