By Zachary Tracer
Bloomberg, October 16, 2017
UnitedHealth Group Inc., the U.S.’s biggest health insurer, said it’s excited about the the chance to sell health plans President Donald Trump is promoting as alternatives to Obamacare.
Last week, Trump signed an executive order promoting short-term health insurance plans, “association health plans” for business owners who could band together, and tax-advantaged savings accounts that could be used to pay for health services. The order — which Trump has acknowledged as a move to effectively dismantle Obamacare — rattled some health insurance and hospital stocks last week.
“We have a great deal of experience in the areas covered in the order — short-term policies, association plans and expanded use of HRAs,” Chief Executive Officer David Wichmann said on a call with investors. “We will be engaging with policymakers as the regulatory frameworks in these areas are developed.”
UnitedHealth said in a statement Tuesday that its medical-loss ratio, a measure of how much of every premium dollar is spent on care, was 81.4 percent.
The company’s shares rose 4.4 percent to $201.75 at 9:41 a.m. in New York, after earlier rising as much as 5.3 percent for the biggest intraday gain in a year. They’re up about 26 percent so far this year.
By Don McCanne, M.D.
As President Trump signs an executive order designed to help dismantle Obamacare, look who is celebrating – UnitedHealth Group, Inc., the nation’s largest health insurer. UnitedHealth has already mastered Trump’s tools to increase profits through short-term health insurance plans, association health plans, and health reimbursement arrangements – tools which reduce the amount the insurers have to pay for health care.
Wall Street also wants its piece of the action, as demonstrated by the boost in UnitedHealth’s share prices, now up about 26 percent this year.
UnitedHealth is touting its medical-loss ratio of 81.4 percent, which means that they divert 18.6 percent of their premium revenue to their own purposes, including high executive compensation and shareholder profits. Compare that to Medicare’s spending on health care which is about 98 percent of revenues.
And this afternoon we learn that Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray have reached an agreement that would temporarily extend cost-sharing payments in exchange for softening the rules to allow for cheaper, skimpier plans – shifting yet more health care costs away from insurers.
And when we try to offer the single payer solution, our progressive colleagues jump up and say we can’t have a litmus test. We must continue to support those (neoliberals) who have led us down this path to health care purgatory.
What is your next step? A champagne toast with UnitedHealth’s executives? That seems to be all that we are getting out of D.C. Or are we finally going to do something about this? Like demanding an improved Medicare for all. No, really. We have to make that demand and make it in an effective manner. They are not going to volunteer it.
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