There is a moment in the "ABC Health Care Town Hall" where President Obama gets in a nice little jab at former Aetna CEO Ron Williams. After Ron cries a little freaking river about the potential for a public option, Obama reminds Ron "Millionaire on the Backs of Denied Claims" Williams that even with a public option Aetna shareholders will do great.
Well, it appears that without the threat of a public option, Aetna is just doing fan-freaking-tastic.
Aetna Inc. (AET) posted a 30% increase in fourth-quarter profit, offered a far better-than-expected 2011 forecast and significantly raised its dividend as the health insurer benefited from people's lighter-than-usual use of medical services and new pricing on its health plans.
Please excuse me while I take a moment for a bit of cathartic Will Ferrell-esque unadulterated RAGE.
Ron Williams has the nerve the complain last year about a "level playing field," but at the same time his company actively stacks the deck against policyholders by raising premiums and pushing more and more individuals into junk plans with deductibles ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 (or higher). There's your "lighter-than-usual use of medical services" -- when everyone in America is losing his or her job or failing to get wage increases, but their bastard insurance company pushes them into a plan where they need to spend thousands they don't have to get any covered medical care, of course people are going to use less care.
Ron, if one of those individuals using less care is foregoing a cancer screening, you have their damn blood on your hands as you enjoy your American public-financed retirement.
Ron, if one of those individuals using less care is foregoing a heart screening, you have their damn blood on your hands.
Indeed, all of the executives at Aetna who persist in acquiring massive amounts of "economic rent" by virtue of grossly inflated salaries, have blood on their hands if their efforts to raise premiums and make their insurance policies even "junkier" than they already are leads to an individual not seeking the care he or she needs.
Aetna (and CIGNA and Humana and United Healthcare) is exactly the reason why we must keep fighting on the state level for single-payer schemes and robust public options. A good place to start is by joining the fight at Physicians for a National Health Program.
While it would be horrible to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the reality is that the Affordable Care Act does nothing more than try to jerry-rig a horrid, immoral and unethical private insurance model into a kind of pseudo-social insurance. Unfortunately, it does so at immense cost to the American public and its government -- forcing government to subsidize private insurance premiums that are not capped (or even regulated), and still leaving tens of millions un- or underinsured.
If we had a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system, Aetna could still realize profit gains of 30 percent (or more) selling junk insurance to those who want private hospital beds or gold-plated care that Medicare should not have to provide, but at least the broader public would not be collectively subsidizing these unlimited profits through the lack of a public alternative to "corporate care."
UPDATE: Fans of corporate care should not be worried if they love Aetna or CIGNA as much as they do Trader Joe's or Starbucks (respectable corporate citizens). Big-profit insurers are looking abroad to sell their policies in Europe and Asia to individuals who want a little more "gold" on their government plans. That is the proper place for private health insurance -- supplementing government-provided, basic benefits that you can never lose.
UPDATE II: Just got off the phone with my uncle suffering from major heart issues who has a small-business plan with Aetna. Almost every hospital bill was initially denied, and then he had to call to have bills dealt with by Aetna. Aetna claims they will fix problem, but then they never do. Another phone call. Repeat. I'm not sure Aetna is intentionally denying claims, but the for-profit, employer-based "non-system" of health care in this country seems so damn broken that even the insurance companies themselves can't operate within its confines. Why do we punish ourselves like this day in and day out? The system isn't working for anyone...and I'm upset that Aetna is causing my uncle further heart troubles dealing with their horrible non-governmental bureaucracy.