Zacks.com featured highlights: Tailored Brands, Best Buy, Anthem, Aegean Marine Petroleum Network and Tesoro
Zacks.com featured highlights: Tailored Brands, Best Buy, Anthem, Aegean Marine Petroleum Network and Tesoro
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We are not Europe. We are not Canada. We are America. This is not a single pay country. (1) This has been the uncompromising view of Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), who as chairman of the key Senate Finance Committee in 2008 and 2009 played a leading role in shaping the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As described in my 2010 book, Hijacked: The Road to Single Payer in the Aftermath of Stolen Health Care Reform, he and his committee kept a single-payer option off the table, and even called the police to arrest eight activists who showed up for a hearing before his committee on health care options. (2) Elizabeth Fowler, a former health insurance industry insider as vice president for public policy for WellPoint, was the lead author of the Senate Finance Committee bill that made sure that the industry would be well served by the legislation. (3) Conservative politicians, including both Republicans and many Democrats, have long been wary of a single-payer public financing system for national health insurance (NHI). They go out of their way to denigrate the Canadian system, even though it is extremely popular in Canada since its enactment in the 1970s, is tied to a private delivery system, and is more efficient and less bureaucratic with better outcomes than our far more expensive system. They tell us that a public financing system would be un-American and antithetical to American values, while overlooking the strengths of traditional Medicare and the Veterans Administration. Their opposition to NHI, of course, is enabled and perpetuated by extensive lobbying and campaign donations by the insurance industry. These erroneous assertions by conservatives about public opinion concerning health care financing are entirely discredited by national polls over many years, virtually ignored by the mainstream media. Three of four Americans supported NHI during the 1940s (4) Since then, a majority of respondents to many national surveys have supported NHI. A 2009 CBS/New York Times poll found that 59 percent of respondents supported NHI. (5) A 2015 Gallup poll found that satisfaction of enrollees is highest in publicly financed health insurance programs (78 percent for the VA, 77 percent for traditional Medicare, and 75 percent for Medicaid), compared to 69 percent for employer-sponsored private coverage and 65 percent for individually purchased private plans. (6) After seven years with the Romney health care reform plan in Massachusetts, upon which the ACA was based, 72 percent of respondents to a survey prefer NHI to that plan. (7) A 2015 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 84 percent of respondents support Medicare negotiating discounted prices for prescription drugs. (8) The U. S. society is in the midst of major political, demographic and cultural change. Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, historian, philosopher and political activist, brings us this perspective of these changes: There can be no denying that the United States is undergoing a serious ideological and political realignment due to its rapid transformation into a society characterized by an immense gap between rich and poor, unprecedented economic insecurity and growing poverty, the abandonment of public investments in public infrastructure and an overall decline in the standard of living.. . . The [November 2016] elections are quite significant, whatever the outcome, in revealing the growing discontent and anger about the impact of neoliberal programs of the past generation, which, as elsewhere quite generally, have had a harsh impact on the mass of the population while undermining functioning democracy and enriching and empowering a tiny minority, largely in financial industries that have a dubious, if not harmful, role in the economy. . . . The tendencies have been clear for some time, but, in this election, the party establishments have lost control for the first time. . . . It is rather striking, for example, to see how easily the Democratic Party almost openly abandons the white working class, which drifts into the hands of their most bitter enemy, the leadership and power base of the Republican Party. (9) Health care is primarily not a left-right issue, as a December 2015 national Kaiser public opinion poll found--58 percent of adults in the U. S. supported NHI (Medicare for All), including 81 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of Independents, and 30 percent of Republicans. (10) Since we all depend on access to affordable health care on many occasions, it should not be a partisan issue. Having a large risk pool--all 320 million of us--will benefit the common good most effectively and at lowest cost to us as patients and taxpayers. All of us will need affordable access to care at various points along our journeys in life. Instead of a left-right issue, health care reform has become a top-down issue--corporate profits and oligarchy vs. democracy and the public interest. So far, democracy is losing, and the pendulum will have to swing back to best meet the needs of all Americans. Robert Reich, professor of public policy at the University of California Berkeley who was secretary of labor in the Bill Clinton administration and served in two previous administrations, sums up our current choice for the future of health care this way: The real choice in the future is either a hugely expensive for-profit oligopoly with the market power to charge high prices even to healthy people and stop insuring sick people. Or else a government-run single-payer system--such as in place in almost every other advanced economy--dedicated to lower premiums and better care for everyone. We're going to have to choose eventually. (11) John Geyman, M.D. is the author of The Human Face of ObamaCare: Promises vs. Reality and What Comes Next and How Obamacare is Unsustainable: Why We Need a Single-Payer Solution For All Americans visit: http://www.johngeymanmd.org References: 1. Baucus, M. As quoted in an interview with Karen Tumulty from Time Magazine in a Health Care Reform Newsmaker Series, March 3, 2009. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2. Robbins, K. Baucus 8 update: Single payer in the news. Healthcare-NOW! May 7, 2009. 3. Conner, K. Chief health aide to Baucus is former WellPoint executive. Eyes on the Ties Blog, September 1, 2009. 4. Steinmo, S, Watts, J. It's the institutions, stupid! Why comprehensive national health insurance always fails in America. J Health Politics, Policy and Law 20: 329, 1995. 5. Public opinion polling on single payer: Americans (still) support it! Everybody In! Healthcare NOW!'s Quarterly Newsletter on the Single-Payer Healthcare Justice Movement, 10, Spring 2016. 6. Saluja, J, Zallman, L, Nardin, R et al. Support for National Health Insurance seven years into Massachusetts healthcare reform: Views on populations targeted by the reform. Intl J Health Services. OnlineFirst--November 3, 2015. 7. Gumpert, K. Americans want Medicare to help negotiate down drug prices--poll. Reuters, July 17, 2015. 8. Polychroniou, CJ. Is the U. S. ready for socialism? An interview with Noam Chomsky. Truth-out, May 18, 2016. 9. Ibid # 6. 10. Reich, R. Why a single-payer healthcare system is inevitable. Common Dreams, August 22, 2016. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
This Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014 photo shows the Anthem logo at the company's corporate headquarters in Indianapolis. Formerly known as WellPoint, the nation's second-largest health insurer changed its corporate name to Anthem to reflect a label familiar to consumers shopping for coverage. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings) A massive experiment in California is [...]
WASHINGTON ― When celebrities, high-level party operatives and the blue blazer-and-khaki crowd of staffers and journalists join together for the highly publicized Snoop Dogg concert immediately following presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, they’ll be doing so thanks to funding from two of the biggest lobbying forces in Washington. Through a fundraising committee called Unity Convention 2016, three super PACs are organizing the Snoop Dogg Unity event and a concert with the band Los Lobos. So far, the two biggest donors for the events are the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the lobbying arm of the drug industry, and Anthem, Inc., a major health insurer. PhRMA and Anthem each contributed $50,000 to the committee, according to a filing with the Federal Election Commission. Unity Convention 2016 raises money for Priorities USA Action, the super PAC backing Clinton’s presidential campaign; Senate Majority PAC, which supports Democratic Senate candidates and is closely tied to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid; and House Majority PAC, which is close to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and is tasked with electing Democrats to the House. Each of these super PACs contributed $10,000 to help cover the cost of their convention events. PhRMA and Anthem are major lobbying forces in Washington with significant policy interests that will arise in the next administration and Congress. PhRMA and Blue Cross Blue Shield, of which Anthem is a member, are perennially two of the top 10 lobbying groups that spend the most, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Super PACs and dark money nonprofits are closely connected to donors with important lobbying interests, The Huffington Post has previously reported. PhRMA was the key player in the Washington influence industry to help the Obama administration push the Affordable Care Act through Congress. The lobbying group made a behind-the-scenes agreement to support the legislation as long at it did not include long-standing Democratic Party policies allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices for seniors or allow cheaper drugs to be imported from Canada and other countries. A draft of the 2016 Democratic Party platform, however, calls for Medicare to negotiate drug prices and allows for such drug importation. In addition, the platform calls for capping the price of prescription drugs, including how much Americans pay out-of-pocket for drugs, as well as expanding community health centers that can obtain cheaper drugs and increasing how quickly generics reach the market. The draft platform also includes a call for a public health insurance option to be created and offered to people using the Affordable Care Act exchanges. Clinton and President Barack Obama have both recently called for the public option to be adopted. But the public option was a controversial sticking point when Congress debated the legislation. Health insurers ― including Anthem, which was known at the time as WellPoint ― were adamantly opposed to the public option and also fought against the larger bill. In fact, health insurers played along with the Obama administration publicly to influence the legislation while working covertly with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to defeat it. The public option was ultimately left out of the legislation after then-Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut ― a state that a number of major insurers, including Anthem, call home ― refused to back the bill if it was included. That same draft platform, however, does not include a call for a single-payer health care system. Delegates affiliated with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pushed for a platform committee vote to adopt a government-run health insurance program, essentially Medicare for everyone, but were defeated by delegates connected to Clinton. Nothing scares health insurers more than efforts to replace them with government-provided insurance, as that would essentially put them out of business. Insurers, including Anthem, are currently funding the opposition to a Colorado ballot initiative to create a single-payer system for the state. Insurers have pumped $1 million into a ballot committee called Colorado for Coloradans to oppose Amendment 69, The Intercept reported. Anthem is the largest donor to the opposition, with a $500,000 donation. The Anthem-backed opposition employs a litany of Democratic Party consultants, including one employed by Priorities USA Action. Even more pressing for Anthem, though, is its pending merger with rival insurer Cigna, which comes at a time of increasing consolidation and monopolization across all industries. Democratic senators, including Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, have called for the Department of Justice to block the Anthem-Cigna deal, as well as a merger between Aetna and Humana. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), an increasingly influential politician who joined the push for the DOJ to reject the Anthem-Cigna merger, recently called for a new era of antitrust enforcement to prevent the consolidation of economic and political power. And for the first time since the 1980s, the Democratic Party’s platform includes a call to “enhance the antitrust enforcement arms of the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, and encourage other agencies to police anticompetitive practices in their areas of jurisdiction.” The Snoop Dogg concert is just one event planned for the week of the Democratic convention. Because a super Pac is funding it, its donors are required to be revealed to the public. There will be dozens more parties and events to fete lawmakers and other officials around Philadelphia that will be funded by undisclosed corporate interests. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
Wellpoint, Inc., one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies, officially became Anthem, Inc. as the company aggressively markets its menu of Anthem and Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans for new 2015 membership on exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. Anthem, which begins today trading under the new ticker symbol [...]
Republicans weren't the only big winners in last Tuesday's election. So were health insurance companies, many of which spent heavily to influence the outcome. There are several provisions of the Affordable Care Act that the insurance industry would like the next Congress to change. If insurers get what they want -- and with the GOP in control of both houses of Congress, it's a decent bet they will -- Wall Street will be exuberant indeed. Just the anticipation of what a Republican controlled Congress might be able to pull off has put insurance company shareholders in good humor. Within 24 hours of knowing that Mitch McConnell would replace Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader, investors were active buyers of health insurance stock. In fact, the share prices of five of the six largest for-profit health insurers -- Cigna, Health Net, Humana, UnitedHealthcare and WellPoint/Anthem -- reached their highest points in a year last Wednesday. Some even reached historic highs. Aetna was the only one that fell short of reaching a 52-week high, but only by pocket change. Even though there is still chatter about repealing Obamacare, GOP leaders and insurance company executives understand that isn't likely to happen. And they really don't want it to. Insurance firms and their shareholders actually love the billions of dollars in new revenue they're getting as a result of the law's requirement that most of us buy coverage from private insurers. They're pretty confident that the cash will continue to flow, because, even with Republican control of Capitol Hill, the law will not be repealed. No doubt a full repeal bill will pass in the House, just as previous bills have every year since the GOP took control of that chamber four years ago. But there's almost no chance the Senate version will match the House's action. Republicans still won't have the 60 votes necessary to overcome an almost-certain Democratic filibuster of any bill that would repeal or gut the reform law. Even if they did, President Obama would surely veto it. But we can expect Republican lawmakers to quickly introduce bills in the new Congress that would strip the law's "root and branch," to use a favorite McConnell phrase. This is part of a skillful game of political chess insurance company executives and lobbyists have played since the beginning of the health reform debate. Despite the fact that they have given more money through their PACs to Republicans than Democrats and have sided with groups that have sought to abolish the law, the insurers have also played Democrats at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to their advantage. While they didn't get all they wanted during the reform debate, they won the major battles. The insurance companies got the White House and Democratic leaders to stifle any real discussion of single payer health care. And they were able to kill the idea of a government-run public option to compete with them. As a consequence, even with the provisions of the law that protect consumers from insurance company abuses, such as refusing to sell coverage to applicants with pre-existing conditions, insurers have thrived. While the Dow Jones Industrial Average has increased an impressive 160 percent since President Obama signed the reform bill into law on March 23, 2010, the price of the insurers' shares have doubled -- and in some cases even tripled. If you had invested $25,000 in UnitedHealthcare stock in 2010, you would have $78,750 today, a 315 percent return. But that's not enough for the companies or their shareholders. They figure they can do even better with a few industry-friendly "fixes" to the law. For one thing, they want to get rid of a tax on some health plans that covers some of the cost of the government subsidies to help low-income folks buy insurance. Even though the subsidies go to the insurers, they want to get rid of the tax, and they have the GOP on their side. They also want to be able to once again sell policies that only cover 50 percent of a person's medical expenses. Not only are Republicans on board to allow that, so are many Democrats. With Obama in the White House and the GOP in control of Congress, insurers are in the catbird seat. They know the president won't allow the law to be repealed or even altered substantially, which will be good for future profits, and they also know they can count on the Republicans to push through legislation to get rid of the health plan tax and let them sell low-value policies again. No wonder shareholders are smiling -- all the way to the bank.
Republicans weren't the only big winners in last Tuesday's election. So were health insurance companies, many of which spent heavily to influence the outcome. There are several provisions of the Affordable Care Act that the insurance industry would like the next Congress to change. If insurers get what they want -- and with the GOP in control of both houses of Congress, it's a decent bet they will -- Wall Street will be exuberant indeed. Just the anticipation of what a Republican-controlled Congress might be able to pull off has put insurance company shareholders in good humor. Within 24 hours of knowing that Mitch McConnell would replace Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader, investors were active buyers of health insurance stock. In fact, the share prices of five of the six largest for-profit health insurers -- Cigna, Health Net, Humana, UnitedHealthcare and WellPoint/Anthem -- reached their highest points in a year last Wednesday. Some even reached historic highs. Aetna was the only one that fell short of reaching a 52-week high, but only by pocket change. Even though there is still chatter about repealing Obamacare, GOP leaders and insurance company executives understand that isn't likely to happen. And they really don't want it to. Insurance firms and their shareholders actually love the billions of dollars in new revenue they're getting as a result of the law's requirement that most of us buy coverage from private insurers. They're pretty confident that the cash will continue to flow, because, even with Republican control of Capitol Hill, the law will not be repealed. No doubt a full repeal bill will pass in the House, just as previous bills have every year since the GOP took control of that chamber four years ago. But there's almost no chance the Senate version will match the House's action. Republicans still won't have the 60 votes necessary to overcome an almost-certain Democratic filibuster of any bill that would repeal or gut the reform law. Even if they did, President Obama would surely veto it. But we can expect Republican lawmakers to quickly introduce bills in the new Congress that would strip the law's "root and branch," to use a favorite McConnell phrase. This is part of a skillful game of political chess insurance company executives and lobbyists have played since the beginning of the health reform debate. Despite the fact that they have given more money through their PACs to Republicans than Democrats and have sided with groups that have sought to abolish the law, the insurers have also played Democrats at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to their advantage. While they didn't get all they wanted during the reform debate, they won the major battles. The insurance companies got the White House and Democratic leaders to stifle any real discussion of single payer health care. And they were able to kill the idea of a government-run public option to compete with them. As a consequence, even with the provisions of the law that protect consumers from insurance company abuses, such as refusing to sell coverage to applicants with pre-existing conditions, insurers have thrived. While the Dow Jones Industrial Average has increased an impressive 160 percent since President Obama signed the reform bill into law on March 23, 2010, the price of the insurers' shares have doubled -- and in some cases even tripled. If you had invested $25,000 in UnitedHealthcare stock in 2010, you would have $78,750 today, a 315 percent return. But that's not enough for the companies or their shareholders. They figure they can do even better with a few industry-friendly "fixes" to the law. For one thing, they want to get rid of a tax on some health plans that covers some of the cost of the government subsidies to help low-income folks buy insurance. Even though the subsidies go to the insurers, they want to get rid of the tax, and they have the GOP on their side. They also want to be able to once again sell policies that only cover 50 percent of a person's medical expenses. Not only are Republicans on board to allow that, so are many Democrats. With Obama in the White House and the GOP in control of Congress, insurers are in the catbird seat. They know the president won't allow the law to be repealed or even altered substantially, which will be good for future profits, and they also know they can count on the Republicans to push through legislation to get rid of the health plan tax and let them sell low-value policies again. No wonder shareholders are smiling -- all the way to the bank.
WellPoint Inc. (WLP) reported third-quarter 2014 adjusted income of $2.36 per share, beating the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2.28.
Wellpoint (WLP), one of the nation’s largest health insurers, joined the parade of health plans increasing its enrollment of new privately insured members and Medicaid enrollees this year thanks to the Affordable Care Act, raising its financial guidance yet again. Speaking on the company’s third-quarter earnings call this morning, Wellpoint chief [...]
Американская страховая компания WellPoint отчиталась о чистой прибыли, превысившей ожидания аналитиков. Так, чистая прибыль в третьем квартале снизилась на 3,9% и составила $630,9 млн или $2,22 на акцию по сравнению с $656,2 млн или $2,16 на бумагу годом ранее. При этом скорректироанная прибыль на акцию достигла $2,36, тогда как аналитики ожидали $2,26. Выручка в рассматриваемом периоде оказалась на уровне $18,56 млрд по сравнению с $17,86 млрд за аналогичный период прошлого года, хотя аналитики ожидали $18,74 млрд. Также стоит отметить, что компания ожидает годовую прибыль на акцию в коридоре $8,75-8,85.
В среду, 29 октября, в Соединенных Штатах Америки ожидается публикация двух важных макроэкономических показателей. Так, в 17:30 МСК появится информация о запасах нефти за неделю, по данным EIA. Согласно ожиданиям, показатель увеличился на 3,371 млн баррелей после повышения на 7,111 млн баррелей неделей ранее. Заметим, что сегодня завершается двухдневное заседание ФРС, и в 21:00 МСК инвесторам предстоит узнать решение по процентной ставке, которая, скорее всего, осталась на прежнем уровне 0-0,25%. Среди второстепенных данных отметим ряд показателей по ипотечному рынку, а также недельные запасы бензина и дистиллятов. В календаре корпоративных отчетностей значатся следующие компании: - Eaton, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, Hershey, Hess, Ralph Lauren, WellPoint (до открытия); - DreamWorks Animation, Kraft Foods, MetLife, Visa (после закрытия торгов). К 13:45 МСК фьючерсы на индекс S&P 500 торгуются с понижением на 0,040%.
Американская страховая компания WellPoint увеличивает программу обратного выкупа акций на $5 млрд. Отметим, что теперь суммарный объем выкупа будет составлять $6 млрд.
Американская страховая компания WellPoint увеличивает программу обратного выкупа акций на $5 млрд. Отметим, что теперь суммарный объем выкупа будет составлять $6 млрд.
Obamacare's so-called government takeover of health care was supposed to destroy the private insurance market. Somebody forgot to tell the health insurance companies. More health insurers are signing on to participate in Obamacare, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said during a speech Tuesday at the Brookings Institution in Washington. The number of companies offering plans on the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchange marketplaces for 2015 will jump to 248, a 25 percent increase over this year, in the 44 states where the numbers are available. The department offered details in a report published at the time of Burwell's remarks. The increase in participating companies discredits a line of attack against the 4-year-old health care law that said it would crush competition. UnitedHealth Group, one of the largest insurers in the country, plans to sell coverage on exchanges in more than 20 states for 2015 after sitting out this year in many states where it offered other plans. The firm will join other big players including WellPoint, which sold more exchange plans than any other insurance carrier; Humana; and Aetna, along with numerous state-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans. Some major insurance companies continue to avoid the exchanges, however. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the leading insurer in Iowa and South Dakota, is staying out of the exchanges in those states for the second year of enrollment. Health insurance premiums tend to be lower in markets where multiple plans compete than in locales where one or two companies dominate. Although full information about premium prices on the Obamacare exchanges next year isn't yet available, the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates the average rise will be 8.2 percent. That is similar to or smaller than price hikes in the years before Obamacare, and rate increases and decreases will vary greatly across the country. The 25 percent increase in plans on the exchanges for next year represents 77 new health insurance companies joining and 14 leaving. According to the HHS report, California is the only state where fewer insurers will sell coverage on its exchange. Information wasn't provided about Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon or Vermont. Underscoring the volatility in this new health insurance market, Minnesota's exchange has lost its most popular insurer, meaning some customers will have to select new coverage for next year. Nine states included in the HHS report will have the same number of health insurance companies in their exchanges for next year as they did in 2014, but the remaining 34 states will have more. Notably, New Hampshire and West Virginia each had only one insurer selling policies on its exchange for last year; for 2015, the states will have five and two, respectively. Indiana will see the most new insurers, with options rising from four to nine. New York has the most insurers in its exchange with 17. Open enrollment on the health insurance exchanges begins Nov. 15 and runs through Feb. 15. An estimated 7.3 million people were fully enrolled in private health insurance plans purchased via the exchanges where people buy health insurance as of Aug. 15, Burwell disclosed last week. In addition, millions have been added to the Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program rolls since the first Obamacare sign-up period started last October. As a result, more than 10 million previously uninsured people gained coverage, according to an analysis by HHS and the Harvard School of Public Health that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in July. But Obamacare enrollment hasn't reached anywhere near its potential -- particularly in the private market. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation estimates the Obamacare exchanges could ultimately sign up almost 29 million people for private health insurance.
For the next two months, Californians will to be subjected to a barrage of TV, radio and online ads, which, ironically, they unknowingly will be paying for with their health insurance premiums. The ads are a part of a multi-pronged, multimillion dollar campaign -- developed by public relations, advertising firms and political consultants for the state's biggest insurers -- to convince voters that an initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot designed to protect them against unreasonable rate increases will actually cause their premiums to go up. As of last week, a small handful of health insurers had contributed tens of millions of dollars to an organization called Californians Against Higher Health Care Costs. If you think the companies' CEOs opened their personal checkbooks to finance that group's work, think again. It is their customers that are paying for the propaganda campaign. Californians Against Higher Health Care Costs (CAHHCC) is not a grassroots, consumer-led organization as the name implies. If you check out its website, you'll read that it's a "coalition of doctors, nurses, hospitals, health plans, and California employers" who want the state's residents to vote against Proposition 45, which would give the state's insurance regulators the ability to reject health insurance rate increases they deem excessive. But while a number of business and health care provider groups presumably have joined the coalition, it doesn't appear that any of them have put any money on the table. According to state filings, the campaign is being financed almost exclusively by five insurers with the most customers in the state: Anthem/WellPoint; Blue Shield of California; Kaiser Foundation Health Plan; Health Net; and UnitedHealthcare. Of $37.9 million donated to CAHHCC as of August 22, $37.3 million came from those insurers and their PR and lobbying group, the California Association of Health Plans. The rest came from a small group of insurance brokers and their PR and lobbying groups, the California Association of Health Underwriters and the National Association of Health Underwriters. The main argument cited by these groups' opposition to Proposition 45 is that it might interfere with the efforts of Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange, to provide individuals and small businesses with affordable coverage options in a timely fashion. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who is up for re-election this year, rejects that argument. In a letter to state lawmakers this summer, Jones wrote that if voters pass Proposition 45, his department -- which has long had the ability to reject proposed rate increases from auto and property and casualty insurers -- will work cooperatively with other state agencies "to ensure that rates are reviewed and approved to meet Covered California...deadlines." Jones also pointed out that insurance regulators in 35 other states already have the ability to disapprove unreasonable rate increases, and he offered a point-by-point rebuttal of a report commissioned by the insurance industry that suggested Proposition 45 could undermine provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Jones wrote that his department has had more than three years' experience reviewing individual and small group health insurance rates under the federal reform law "including experience last year completing review of health insurance rates in time to meet Covered California's deadlines to allow health insurers to offer health insurance in the California exchange." As a former health insurance company executive, I'd be willing to bet that the state's health insurers care far less about meeting Covered California's deadlines than meeting their profit goals. Their real concern, in my opinion, is that regulators with more experience reviewing insurers' business practices than Covered California staffers might be more likely to detect proposed rate increases designed more to pad their bottom lines than to cover expected increases in medical costs. According to the Los Angeles Times, a recent poll showed that 69 percent of registered California voters support Proposition 45, which means that the health insurers have their work cut out for them. But $38 million deployed strategically can change a lot of minds. And insurers know from successful campaigns they've conducted in the past that carefully targeted negative ads -- and the use of front groups and surrogates -- can quickly turn public opinion.. Having been a part of planning and implementing such campaigns in my previous career, I can tell that the industry is conducting a "bifurcated" campaign in California. The industry's message for conservatives, communicated by its allies in publications like Breitbart.com, is that if a Proposition 45 passes, Democrat Jones would become a health care "czar" empowered to destroy the "free market." Another message for conservatives is that it would enable "trial lawyers who fund Jones's campaigns" to get rich by intervening on behalf of health plan members and policyholders in the rate-approval process by filing "frivolous lawsuits" against health insurers. The industry's key message to scare liberals, communicated by its "coalition," is showing up in media seldom seen by most conservatives. Some of that $38 million was spent last week on an ad in Salon.com featuring a large picture of President Barack Obama and this message: "Protect Obamacare from Legal Attacks. Prop 45's Dirty Little Secret: More Attacks Against Obamacare. Vote No on 45!" I will continue to monitor the industry's campaign and write more about it in the weeks ahead.
On Aug 28, 2014, WellPoint Inc. (WLP) scaled a 52-week high of $116.74 after posting strong second-quarter financial results.
Our economy is broken. There's one economy for the wealthy, and another for the rest of us. This division has been worsened by the behavior of corporate executives who manage their corporations for short-term personal gain, rather than for long-term fiscal soundness. Could a "secret trick" help change that? This "trick" is reviewed in a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), written by Sarah Anderson, Sam Pizzigati, and Marjorie Elizabeth Wood, and it comes from what they describe as "a most unlikely source": Obamacare. CEOs and other executives are overpaid nowadays by any reasonable standard. To make matters worse, taxpayers are footing a large part of the bill. Thanks to some historical lobbying and maneuvering, corporations are able to deduct much of the money they pay to their most highly compensated executives. We can blame corporate CEOs for selfish, shortsighted, and greedy behavior, and we should. But that misses an important point: government policy actually encourages them to behave that way. In one of its lesser-known provisions, the Affordable Care Act limited these tax breaks for health insurers who benefit from the law. While that may sound arcane, the implications could be profound and far-reaching. An imperfect law. It's not that the ACA is an ideal law. Far from it. Among other things, it's a boon for for-profit insurers (hence, presumably, the IPS's use of "unlikely"). Insurance companies have certainly benefited from many of its provisions. Enrollment in for-profit plans has increased significantly. Health insurance stocks have surged since the ACA took effect, as this chart illustrates: Source: Institute for Policy Studies Medical providers have seen some gains, too. While there have been some limitations on provider reimbursement, hospitals are receiving more income for emergency room visits. Pharmaceutical sales are likely to keep rising, although the Federal government - the largest purchaser of pharmaceuticals in the nation - is still forbidden to negotiate price discounts with drug companies. The individual mandate is a challenge for many households. Union members and others with decent health care will lose out under the law's naïvely-designed excise tax on higher-cost plans That's a Republican idea which the President originally campaigned against, and which was then included in the ACA at his Administration's insistence. This ill-conceived provision will soon punish people for health care expenses which, contrary to Beltway folk wisdom, is largely driven by health status rather than "Cadillac benefits." (See here and here for more.) These problemss may may eventually lead the nation to conclude that we need deeper and more comprehensive reform, the kind which doesn't rely on private-sector corporations to provide our medical care. The plus side. But for all its flaws, the ACA has its merits. The Medicaid expansion provision, while imperfect in its design, has provided urgently-needed health care coverage to millions of Americans (where it hasn't been blocked by intransigent Republican governors, an outcome which was all but inevitable). It's entirely possible that the law is helping to slow down the rate of increase in our nation's health care costs, although they are already intolerably high. The IPS study has now shed some light light on another positive aspect of the law. The ACA lowers the cap on the deductibility of executive compensation from $1,000,000 to $500,000 per executive per year; eliminates the exception for stock options and other forms of "performance-based" pay; and extends the cap beyond senior executives to all highly-paid employees of the firm. To be sure, the revenue collected by ending this tax break is relatively insignificant. The IPS estimates that the top ten health insurers paid an additional $72 million in taxes last year. The provision is expected to bring in an additional $1 billion over the next ten years. Those aren't big dollars in Washington terms. But, as the IPS study rightly points out, the real significance of this tax lies in the model it offers for the entire corporate economy. First, there are the direct tax benefits. As the IPS points out: "If the Obamacare executive pay tax provision applied to all major US corporations ... taxpayers would save $50 billion over the next 10 years." That's a significant improvement to the government's bottom line. This revenue could be used to create jobs, educate children, rebuild our infrastructure ... even deliver added health care services. Perverse CEO incentives. But the greatest economic benefits would come from changing the perverse incentive structure which currently drives executive compensation in this country. That could profoundly improve our economy. Here's why: The public's last wave of outrage over executive pay led Congress to impose limits on the tax deductibility of the pay a corporation gives to its top for executives. But, as the IPS study explains: "In reality, the 1993 tax deductibility cap came with a huge loophole ... that has essentially rendered the cap meaningless ... corporations can simply declare the stock rewards they lavish on executives 'performance-based' and then go on to deduct the many millions involved as a basic business expense." The end result was a move from relatively straightforward pay packages to "ballooning" compensation which increasingly centered on exorbitant stock options and grants. Since these packages were usually decided annually, their "performance" aspect encouraged executives to focus primarily on short-term gains in stock prices. That, in turn, led executives to abandon long-term concerns about financial viability in favor of maneuvers that could spike the stock price - and therefore their personal compensation - on a much shorter time frame. Those maneuvers are frequently reckless, and often fail to address the interests of all company stakeholders - a group which includes customers, shareholders, and common stock holders. These "performance" packages have become so divorced from actual performance that, as the IPS study reminds us, "CEOs at 63 S&P 500 companies won 'performance pay' increase in 2012 at the same time their corporate share returns were underperforming their ... peers." Expanding the ACA's executive-pay provision to all companies, and improving its design even more, would begin the process of removing senior executives' incentives to put their companies at risk and disregard the needs of employees and customers. The way forward. The IPS study performs an additional valuable service by summarizing some of the domestic and foreign proposals for curbing executive pay and correcting the perverse incentives in the current system. They grade these proposals on four simple principles: 1. Encourage narrower CEO-worker pay gaps. 2. Eliminate taxpayer subsidies for excessive executive pay. 3. Encourage reasonable limits on total compensation. 4. Bolster accountability to shareholders. 5. Extend accountability to broader stakeholder groups. While there is no space to review all of them here, the ideas which IPS has gathered are valuable and insightful. This kind of reform already enjoys broad, bipartisan support. Republican Rep. Dave Camp has offered a similar proposal, as has Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee. Lee's proposal would also deny tax deductions for any executive pay which is more than 25 times the amount paid to a firm's lowest-paid worker. Such moves would certainly be popular with voters. As the authors note, polls show that 63 percent of Americans want to "prevent corporations from avoiding taxes when they award their executives millions in stock options." To be sure, health insurance corporations have not improved their behavior substantially as a result of this law, at least so far. They are still overpaying their executives. UnitedHealth, which will increase its Medicaid enrollment by a projected 800,000 this year, is the most egregious overpayer of senior executives. WellPoint used tax dodges to skirt the first year of this law. But a comprehensive reform of executive pay could make this kind of misbehavior harder to pull off - and it would mean taxpayers no longer have to foot the bill for a system which encourages mismanagement and greed. Obamacare's "secret trick" won't single-handedly fix our economy or end our nation's epidemic of executive misadventure. But it's an excellent idea, and the Institute for Policy Studies is using it the right way: to start a much-needed national conversation about reforming executive compensation.