Back in 1996, one of America’s lower-paid healthcare company executives was Allen Wise, a VP at United Healthcare. His annual salary was a paltry $2,697,751. The company CEO at the time was one Dr. William McGuire, a man willing to settle for stock options equaling $50,042,237. But he was far from the number one pilferer that year. That title belonged to a fellow by the name of Stephen Wiggins, the CEO of Oxford Health Plans. His stock options way back in '96 totaled $82,799,000. Wiggins also managed to be the salary champ that year at a whopping (for the time) $29,061,599.
That was then - or “the lean years” as they’re remembered in executive board rooms.
Just nine years later (in 2005), the same Dr. McGuire (still stuck at stingy United Healthcare) “earned” $124,800,000 in salary alone. Unfortunately for McGuire, 1996 was to be his last year milking the system due to his standout felonious role in a major stock options scandal (see "Legal Issues"). The SEC fined McGuire $468 million, which I assume came off the top of his parting gift from UH, a $1.1 Billion (with a capital “B”) golden parachute. It was (at the time) the largest parting gift ever awarded any corporate chief executive in the history of mankind; in fact, probably the largest since the Cretaceous Period, but accurate corporate record-keeping suffered even back then.
White crime pays, kids, and pays quite well.
You don’t even want to know how much these gentlemen are stealing today. Let’s just say Dr. McGuire must feel like a pauper - sort of the way Babe Ruth would have felt if he could have seen the future and Nick Swisher's paycheck. That's actually a perfect analogy for anyone (like me) who believes the Yankees and the Devil have always been simpatico.
But ironically, the unbridled avarice of America’s white collar capos and their eager under-bosses may contain a solution to America’s perpetuating healthcare cluster-fuck.
Imagine (for a minute) that the boards of director of every major healthcare insurer agreed to disband their respective companies in return for our government's guarantee to upper management of continued remunerations commensurate with their current and projected salaries, stock options and golden parachutes. Let’s call it “hippocratic honorariums in perpetuity” (tm – me) - meaning life-long salaries for doing no more harm. Even after paying healthcare executive billions in "mush" money, we'd save trillions of dollars - and millions of American lives. The only active responsibility of the typical CEO would be choosing a chef to run the kitchen on his yacht; although I suppose his wife and mistresses could agree to a culinary stylist and leave the poor retired executive to his box of Cohibas and snifter of Louis XIII.
Yes, I’m suggesting we pay off these modern-day marauders in much the same fashion as we paid off their Barbary Coast fore-bearers during Jefferson’s watch. In fact, my solution is far from unique in American history, nor is it the craziest solution put forward to our healthcare woes (Sue Lowden and her bartered chickens still rule that roost).
In the meantime, the easiest way for the poor in America to get medical attention is to donate themselves to medical schools as cadavers.
Okay, my minute in fantasyland is up (depending on your reading speed), but you may want to take a second minute to consider the possibility that many of these CEO-types would seriously consider such an offer if they could devise a way to weather the internal storm that would follow. Firing tens of thousands of co-workers should be second-nature to them.
So while I made this solution to our healthcare morass in (partial) jest, stranger twists, good and bad, have emerged from past public jokes that donned the cloak of reality.
Anybody remember what happened to GHW Bush’s dumb offspring?
I rest my case. Anything's possible in America.