Time to admit the truth: For profit healthcare is killing us

KEY TAKEAWAY: The claim that corporations are losing money on Obamacare ignores the record-breaking profits and compensation packages that health insurers continue to collect while too many Americans have to decide between paying the rent or skipping healthcare treatments.

Consider UnitedHealth, the nation’s largest health insurer that is leaving the marketplace next year. UnitedHealth claims that Obamacare has reduced its 2016 earnings by $850 million. While they might have $850 million less than they wanted, UntedHealth’s profits are still soaring.  In fact, UnitedHealth announced record-breaking profits in 2015, followed by an even better year this year. In July 2016, UnitedHealth celebrated revenues that quarter totalling $46.5 billion, an increase of $10 billion since the same time last year.  And company filings show that UnitedHealth’s CEO Stephen J. Hemsley made over $20 million in 2015. To be fair, that is a pay cut. The previous year, in 2014, Hemsley took home $66 million in compensation.

Aetna, whose CEO Mark Bertolini reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission a $27.9 million compensation in 2015, has similarly celebrated sky-high profits. “In 2015, we reported annual operating revenue of over $60.3 billion, a record for the Company,” Aetna recently told investors.

President Trump has said that pharmaceutical companies are “getting away with murder.” Perhaps when he takes a closer look at the insurance industry, Trump will see how the companies are more like the drug companies than not, and the whole system needs revamping.

Insurance companies have reaped record-breaking profits year after year, and continue to do so, according to healthinsurance.org. And the fact that the biggest insurance companies, with their hugely influential, moneyed lobbyists, are deeply involved in the Medicare and Medicaid programs means decades of profits ahead.

The insurance companies that bowed out of Obamacare were not losing money; they just might not have been making as much money as they like.

A Salon.com analysis of regulatory filings found that the top five health insurers — UnitedHealth, Anthem, Aetna, Humana and Cigna — have doled out nearly $30 billion in stock buybacks and dividends from 2013 to 2015. Meanwhile, Salon reported, the increase in customers that these health insurers received under ACA helped raise the stock prices of the top five insurers — some 80 percent for Anthem and 165 percent for Aetna since the high court ruled on June 28, 2012 that Obamacare was constitutional.

Capitalism is great, but it’s wrong to allow profits to drive our health care system. A few areas of American life ought to be held sacrosanct above the almighty profit. Pricing people out of health care, and blaming it on the people who signed up for ACA, (how dare sick people need care!), while insurance companies and investors reap in billions, would seem one of those areas where citizens need protection. It’s difficult to get Congress interested in this matter since all members enjoy taxpayer-subsidized health coverage, outside of the ACA, as news outlets reported at the time.

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