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marmar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 03:51 PM
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For the Love of Profit


For the Love of Profit
By Terrance Heath

August 7, 2009 - 10:37am ET


There is a simple answer to the far right's new favorite chant against health care reform "What's Wrong With Profit?". Nothing. There is nothing inherently wrong with making a profit. But their question misses a point that I recall from my Baptist upbringing and my days as a Sunday school teacher.

It's not money that's "the root of all evil," as the most common misquoting of particular bit of scripture would suggest. It's the love of money that's the "root of all evil." Money itself is neither bad nor good. Money, or profit, is not the problem. It's what we do with it, and what we do for it, that makes the difference. If it becomes our only reason for doing anything we are, as a country, lost.

Profit, for a while now, hasn't been a problem for the health insurance industry. During the 20 years or so between our attempts at reforming health care, the industry's done quite well. CEOs like United Health's Stephen Hemsley with $13.2 million in earnings from 2007, and stock options totalling three quarters of a billion dollars have done quite well. He's in good company.

In the same year, the CEOs of the top seven for-profit insurers averaged $14.2 million in compensation. According to one report, the industry's profits were $65 billion in 2007, down from $67.6 billion in 2006, but well above $48.8 billion in 2005. In 2003, they doubled their profits from 2002.

In 2003, HMOs nearly doubled their profits from just a year before, adding $10 billion to their bottom line. That year, top executives at the 11 largest health insurers made a combined $85 million in one year. In the first three quarters of 2004, HMO profits increased by another 33 percent. The sheer numbers behind these profits are staggering: In 2004 alone, the four biggest health insurance companies reported $100 billion in revenues. Thats $273 million a day, every day, 365 days of the year.

They should be doing well. The last time a president tried to reform health care, Americans' health care spending totaled $912 billion. Today, we spend $2.5 trillion and we still have upwards of 50 million uninsured. Since September, nearly five million Americans have lost health insurance, mainly because 6.5 million of us have become employed since late 2007, and most Americans get their health coverage through their employers. ..........(more)

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