Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Tom Daschle Should Not Be Secretary of Health and Human Services

I’m a progressive, a native of North Dakota (the “other” Dakota), and a longtime supporter of Tom Daschle. However, he’s a terrible choice for Secretary of Health and Human Services.

My primary concern is not his bad “tax avoidance” decisions, but rather that he would be the kiss of death for universal healthcare that works.

When it comes to healthcare, Daschle represents the revolving-door, corporate-business-as-usual, Republican wing of the Democratic Party.

Especially troublesome are his ties to that life-sucking dinosaur known as UnitedHealth Group, which is Exhibit A for what’s wrong with healthcare in America. 

Our healthcare system is wasteful and corrupt precisely because it is con game run by and for huge corporate interests.

The privately-milked system is structured to provide maximum returns for shareholders and wealthy industry executives who are not caregivers, while denying and delaying coverage, and passing around like “hot potatoes” those individuals most needing medical care.

America’s private health insurance companies spend billions each year on advertising and gaming the system.

Patients and the actual caregivers—doctors, nurses and other staff—are forced to waste enormous time and money coping with the bureaucratic obstacles and paperwork of hundreds of different billing and reimbursement schemes.

William McGuire, the CEO of UnitedHealth, received compensation totaling $124.8 million in 2005—an amount which could have paid the total cost of medical care for an entire year for more than 33,000 average Americans.

McGuire retired under pressure in October 2006 due to a pay and stock options scandal at UnitedHealth. An investigation determined that McGuire’s options to purchase 1.5 million shares had probably been “backdated” to increase their value. His stock option package was reported to be worth $1.6 billion—imagine 1,600 piles of one million dollars each.

That amount is many thousands of times what is paid to the most highly compensated executive in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which is run more efficiently than America’s private healthcare system.

Incredibly, the $1.6 billion in stock options for McGuire could have paid the total cost of medical care for an entire year for 422,400 Americans.

The enormous financial and political muscle behind entrenched interests like UnitedHealth to date have killed the messenger and sidetracked any serious policy debate on the merits.

This is why any “reform” coming out of Congress always keeps these companies in the business of screwing America.

Sorry, Tom, but you’re part of the problem, not the solution. 

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