Congresswoman Gwen Moore and Congressman Paul Ryan held a Town Hall Meeting of sorts at The Milwaukee Press Club last Friday. I listened to two very different views of reform.
Following a round of questions posed by a panel of local media folks, the moderator (BizTimes Milwaukee executive editor Steve Jagler) opened the meeting to questions from the audience. Up popped a woman I have seen at countless health care forums. Her "question" had to do with the salary being paid to Unitedhealthcare's CEO Stephen Hemsley, which she stated was $700 million. (Gasp!)
This led to a discussion about corporate greed. A $700 million salary sure lends support to those advocating for a government-run "public option" to "keep private insurers honest." Trouble is, Mr Hemsley's salary for 2008 was "only" $1.3 million . Total compensation including contributions to his 401(k) were reported by at least one independent source to be about $3.24 million. (I'll leave it up to others to further check public records.)
Related to that, I have heard this same lady - and many others who know better - claim insurers' administrative expenses consume about 30 cents of every premium dollar. The real number varies but averages a lot closer to 12 percent. Shame on those who twist facts to make their case. (Shame on me for not challenging them when I am in the same room!)
Joe Friday is a fun memory from the past; would that his call for "Just the facts, Ma 'am" was more alive today.
And speaking of "facts." Our national debt is growing … without the added cost of a "public option." When the Congressional Budget Office reports HR-3200 would add massive new amounts to our deficit, how on earth can we call on government to spend even more?
The better course is for the government to lead reform but in the private sector.
Jon Rauser is president of The Rauser Agency Inc., Milwaukee. He writes an ongoing blog about the health care industry at www.rauserhealthreview.com.