They’ll approve transplants–of money from your pocket to theirs


A new video puts denied health insurance claims on United Health Care CEO Stephen Hemsley’s doorstep.

The video, made by Brave News Films’ Robert Greenwald, intercuts stories of people suffering because of denied claims with images Hemsley’s fancy homes, along with details about how much money Hemsley’s got ($744,232,068 in unexercised stock options, for example).

Original movie poster

Holly Bailey says in the video that United Health Care refused to pay for medicine she couldn’t live without.


“I tried to explain to them that if I do not have this, I will die. And the only response she gave me was, ‘OK.'”

Joanna Joshua, whose child’s treatment was denied, asks, “Stephen Hemsley, how are you able to sleep at night?”

The piece aims to gin up the sort of pitchfork-style outrage against health insurance CEOs that so beset Wall Street executives after their industry was bailed out by the government.

“It’s definitely similar and in some ways worse, because these are dollars are literally being taken away from you that could help save lives in order to build bigger mansions,” said Greenwald in an interview with the Huffington Post. “We hope it will begin a part of the discussion that has not happened: Who is gaining from the current system, and why are they resisting?”


United Health Care said in a statement that the company supports health reform and making coverage available to all Americans.


UnitedHealthcare CEO Stephen Hemsley owns $744,232,068 in unexercised stock options. CIGNA’s Edward Hanway spends his holidays in a $13 million beach house in New Jersey. Meanwhile, regular Americans are routinely denied coverage for the care they need when they need it most.

Watch the video at either link, and make sure to check out the insurance CEOs’ stats here. Here are snippets:

Edward Hanway
Five-Year Compensation, as of April 30, 2008 (Forbes)
$120.51 million

Humana CEO
Michael McCallister
Five-Year Compensation Total (Forbes)
$15.1 million

Aetna CEO
Ronald A. Williams
2008 Compensation (Forbes)

WellPoint CEO
Angela Braly
2008 Compensation (Forbes)

From The Washington Post:

If we fail to reform our health care system this year, a major reason will be that a majority of Americans are satisfied with their health coverage and believe that reform could hurt them. […] A recent New York Times poll found that 59 percent of Americans do not think that health-care reform will benefit them personally; 69 percent are concerned that reform could harm the quality of their own care and 68 percent are concerned that it could limit their access to treatment.

This is deeply misleading, for two reasons. First, what does it mean to say that you are satisfied with your health insurance? Consider homeowner’s insurance. Until you need it — your house burns down — you have no way of judging its quality. The same goes for health coverage; until you have a serious illness, the kind where your plan’s limits and exclusions may kick in, how do you know if your health coverage is any good?

For one thing, as the House Energy and Commerce Committee uncovered, some insurers go out of their way to revoke coverage for people with serious health problems by looking for mistakes on their original applications. For another, you could be underinsured, like 29 percent of all people with health insurance, according to Consumer Reports.


The second problem is that the health coverage that most satisfied Americans have — employer-based coverage — is less secure than they think. In America today, we have three main health insurance systems. At one end we have Medicare and the Veterans Health Administration, which (although many anti-reform protesters don’t realize it) are government-funded and government-run programs, and generally popular ones. At the other end we have the individual market, in which individuals buy insurance policies directly from health insurers. The individual market is completely broken; according to a recent Commonwealth Fund study, 73 percent of people who tried to buy individual coverage in the last three years did not end up buying a plan.

In the middle we have the employer-based system, which according to the U.S. Census Bureau covered 59 percent of the population in 2007. The employer-based system is good and bad. On the plus side, it solves the fundamental problem of the individual market.


Employers can spread the cost of health insurance across their workforces, so that all employees are treated equally, regardless of their medical history. Furthermore, the tax rules governing employer-provided health care require that employers offer plans that treat all employees equally. The result is that if your employer provides health coverage, you can probably get it.

However, the employer-based system has two major weaknesses. First, and most obviously, it means keeping your health insurance is dependent on keeping your job.


Second, employers are dropping their health plans; the percentage of people covered through an employer has dropped from 64 percent in 2000 to 59 percent in 2007, and that decline is likely to accelerate. Why? Because, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, the average annual premium for family coverage has already increased from $5,791 in 1999 to $12,680 in 2008 — a 9 percent annual increase — and a study published in Health Affairs forecasts that national health spending will grow at an average annual rate of 6.7 percent until 2017. Arithmetically, with each year that passes, it becomes harder for companies to keep their health plans without reducing benefits, reducing wages or increasing employee contributions to health plans.

The bottom line is that your current health plan may not be as good as you think it is, and there is a good chance that it will not be around when you need it.


Filed under House Energy and Commerce Committee, humor, Medicaid, movies, parody, politics, snark, Wordpress Political Blogs

21 responses to “They’ll approve transplants–of money from your pocket to theirs

  1. hwo dare you say the insurance companies are evil – !

    it boggles the mind that people dont realize their health care is already rationed by the insurance companies and that they could give a rat’s ass about your health – only the profit they derive from your illness.

    also up – “dont touch my medicare” — -more proof that stupidity is an honor in GOP america

    • just another instance of people who vote against their own interests. i don’t understand why people don’t want lower prices for their health insurance, as well as the assurance that they won’t be shit out of luck if they lose their job and their insurance.

  2. But….how can reform protect us against the greed of the CEO’s?? That’s the real question. They obviously couldn’t care less about the little guy. If there’s a way to get around giving a pay-out, they’ll do it.

    • you protect against their greed by putting a cap on their salaries and bonuses.

      • I agree wholeheartedly, Nons, but unfortunately that will never happen.

        • then stick their faces on billboards in their own hometowns. put their salaries in big red letters. next to that, put a picture of a child who died, because treatment was not approved. shame them. let them explain to their children or grandchildren why they’re living in the lap of luxury while other kids are allowed to die because of their parent’s or grandparent’s greed.

  3. Imagine if home security services operated like insurance companies. You pay for their protection but after your first break in they drop you as a customer or raise your premiums so high that you have to stop using the service. And then you can’t get another home security service due to that pre-existing condition–the original break in that caused you to lose your previous service in the first place.

    • Car insurance would be almost as bad if it weren’t for laws that say everyone who drives must have insurance. At least in that case, there will always be providers of last resort, like Geico, Progressive, and E-surance. If any of them got into health insurance, we’d at least get good commercials!

    • that what homeowners insurance is like down here in floriduhhhh. i had allstate for over 20 years, and they dropped me for no reason. instead, i had to buy insurance from a crap company in texas for more than 3 times what i was paying allstate with a much higher deductible. the kicker is that the company is partially owned by….you guessed it! allstate! they get away with this shit all the time here.

  4. If it weren’t for my Medicare, I would be so screwed right now.. between the fact that I am disabled, I have several things wrong with me physically, I am a breast cancer survivor and have a couple of other problems I would never be able to get insurance…lol Even in my last job, I had a terrible time getting it.. and then they wouldn’t cover anything about my cancer for over a year, everything else was covered, but it…they considered it pre-existing, which it was.. and so I wasn’t covered for a year..mammos, nothing.. for over a year..

    Wonderful stuff.. and my premiums were higher than everyone else’s too..

    • dammit, my internets keep breaking! i hate comcast! 👿

      i’m in the same boat as you, annette. i’m disabled and on medicare, too. i would never be able to get coverage, even though i cost the system very, very little. i hate going to the doctor, and i won’t go unless i really, really have to.

      even with medicare though, when you go through a private insurance company, they still make your life miserable. the system is ridiculous. you should be able to go to the nearest lab for tests, and you should not need referrals to see a specialist. it’s not a government bureaucrat in the way, it’s an insurance company. they cost the economy by making patients drive all over the damned place to get a test done, pick it up, bring it to the doctor, and then take it back to the lab. wouldn’t it be better to have centralized places where you can get everything done at once? people would lose less time at work, a lot less gas would be used, and all the info your doctor needs would be in one place.

  5. My employer pulled the switcheroo…. “not much of a health insurance cost raise this year”….
    except well- Co pays went up.

    Then came the memo:
    Please disregard the info sheet we gave you, there was *an error*, the error being you pay the co pay & insurance pays 100%.

    Ooops! You pay the co pay, and they pay 80%– meaning a month later, you get a bill for 20% of the total bill, plus the cost of the insurance premium itself.

    How’s THAT for some razzle dazzle mumbo jumbo??
    The actual cost did not go up (directly), you will be billed later for a full 20% of the annual medical cost.
    My wallet is NOT confused…. I AM paying more.

    Not like I can go shop elsewhere…. I am stuck with whatever the employer dishes up.

    Here is another scenario we recently experienced first hand….
    the husbands employer went belly up. Filed for bankruptcy, terminated 2,200 jobs.
    The day after they filed they *shut down health insurance*– without notice to the workers.
    A month later they said COBRA would be forthcoming…
    They then announced they had been *self insured*, therefore there would be no Cobra.

    Even the arm & a leg spendy safety net had been pulled!

    Just like that after 9 years with the company…
    *poof* no more health insurance.
    So we scrambled to get him on my work insurance. Now the company was bought up by a different company, and he is working again, and MUST get off my work insurance or pay an additional $150 duplicate insurance benefit, plus the actual premium.

    Quite the balancing act, Eh?

    I Heart socialized health care!

    • and so many people are stuck in jobs they don’t like, but they’re afraid to leave, because they don’t want to switch insurance companies. how many people have to leave a doctor they’re comfortable with and who knows their medical history, because they lost their job or because their employer switched to a different plan?

      cobra is ridiculously expensive. it makes no sense that people who have no jobs should have to pay exorbitant amounts to stay covered.

      • The CONCEPT of COBRA- continued coverage after job loss is fantastic.
        The REALITY of COBRA is the cost is SO HIGH, you probably could not afford it when you were working– but certainly not when you are unemployed.
        Some people opt to go deeply in debt to take the COBRA coverage, just to have continued coverage, so they are not screwed in the future by another one of those insurance industry rules.

        • i love that video! i would tell you horror stories about erisa, but the insurance companies make sure that you’re not allowed to tell anyone about your case once you settle with them. of course, the government allows them to get away with this shit.

          • Wow– special secret rules & a gag order.
            How much of this crapola are we going to take???

            We should be having a revolt in the streets!

            That vid cracked me up…. but damn, it’s true.

  6. The piece aims to gin up the sort of pitchfork-style outrage against health insurance CEOs that so beset Wall Street executives after their industry was bailed out by the government.

    The population does need to wake up a bit ’cause the health companies are robbing them blind, and the oil companies are robbing them blind, and the banks are robbing them blind, and the pentagon/defense industry companies is/are robbing them blind, can you think of anyone else who’s robbing? Oh yeah! Un-necessary wars and no-bid contracts and all of Cheney’s henchmen!

    In any case, for all of the above reason(s) is why the population should down tools and surround Washington DC like it was an angry mob and scare the living daylights out of the pols until the pols put right all of the above injustices.

    • i don’t understand what people don’t get. why on earth would anyone trust an insurance company? i think it’s something like stockholm syndrome. they’ve brainwashed people into thinking they’re necessary, no matter how much they abuse you. the powers that be have allowed them to get away with murder, and everyone cowers in their wake. there’s nothing trustworthy about them whatsoever, and the federal and state governments are aiders and abettors.

  7. Well, dang blarn. How does I get’s me one’a dem der fancy CEO type jobaroos you’s talkin’ ’bout?

    Sounds dern right profitablemalistic.