New York Times Runs Yet Another Fawning Story on Health Insurance Industry

In the waning days of Lehman, this blog described a particularly avid defender of the beleaguered bank at CNBC as “the favorite outlet of those who aspire to paint the tape.” That was not terribly well received, needless to say.

The New York Times seems to be adopting a similar fawning posture towards health insurers. A few weeks ago, it ran a story that was an obvious media plant, a flattering, or more accurately, one-sided portrait of a health insurance industry lobbyist, one Karen Ignagni.

The latest salvo in the health care industry charm offensive is another story humanizing the health insurance industry, this one on the front page of the New York Times website, “Dealing With Being the Health Care ‘Villains’”

So what is the story about? The author, Kevin Sack, interviewed a bunch of employees at Humana, the fourth-largest insurance company.

Let’s start with the basics. Why is this even a reasonable premise for a story? This is a perverse twist on a type of story the Times runs periodically, of dropping into a particular community, often in the heartland, to get the populace’s view on a pressing political or social issue.

Since when is it legitimate, much the less newsworthy, to get a company’s perception on its embattled status, at least without introducing either some contrary opinion or better yet, facts, to counter the views of people who will inevitably see what they are doing as right? I hate to draw an extreme comparison to make the point, but staff in Nazi concentration camps also thought they were good people. It is well documented that for all save the depressed, people’s assessments of their own behavior is biased in their favor.

Similarly, I don’t recall many examples of industries under attack having prominent members get flattering front page pieces. The now-famous AIG Financial Products “I Quit” letter was an op-ed. I will admit I could have missed it, but I did not see any New York Times front page pieces during the auto bailouts featuring GM or Chrysler execs and workers saying they were misunderstood. and were being maligned.

So what do we have here? You have a bunch of people whose livelihood depends on Humana. Of course they are gong to see the industry as benign.

And nowhere in this fawning piece do you see mention made of the ugly fact that as recently as the early 1990s, 95% of every dollar spent on insurance claims went to medical care. It is now only 80%. That is a simply stunning change, and shows how completely fact free the industry’s defenses are. The insurers are a major culprit in America’s high medical costs.. But no, we are supposed to take the mere opinion of employees who are deeply vested in the current system as views worth considering.

So back to the lame New York Times article. We get a full 11 paragraphs of stuff like this:

“I’m certainly not villainous or immoral in any way, shape or form,” said Mr. Shireman, 40, a project manager for Humana, the country’s fourth-largest health insurer.

Yves here. Not immoral in any way, shape or form? The Ten Commandments list lying as a sin.I would say it is pretty much impossible for form Mr. Shireman to function in commerce in America and have never told a lie, which means his statement to the NYT is an amazing bit of self-delusion.

But we get more in that vein: :They do not save lives. They just pay the bills.”

Help me. Insurance companies do not passively “just pay the bills.” Not only do they make a great sport of denying routine claims, but if you need a major procedure, you run the risk of having your insurer go over your records to see if they can find a basis for rescinding your policy. The usual grounds is that the patient perpetrated a fraud by failing to report a pre-existing condition, no matter how minor and unrelated to the expense at hand.

So we get 11 paragraphs before we read a peep of dissent, which is immediately undercut:

Such assertions may paper over the industry’s record of double-digit price increases, medical underwriting to exclude applicants from coverage, cancellation of policies for incidental causes, denials of claims, deceptive marketing and generous executive compensation.

But Humana workers and executives said the industry tended to absorb blows that should be directed elsewhere.

And then we get this bit:

The workers said they found the political attacks surprising given the insurance industry’s engagement in this year’s debate. The companies have agreed to stop rejecting applicants with pre-existing health conditions if the government will mandate health coverage, creating vast new markets.

Every Humana employee interviewed, including Mr. McCallister, predicted that a public plan would place private insurers at an impossible disadvantage, without duplicating their efficiencies.

Mr. Obama regularly argues that such a plan is needed to “keep the insurance companies honest.” He has personalized the message by telling of his mother’s struggle with her insurance company as she was dying of ovarian cancer.

Ms. Tidwell observed, “If they don’t have a villain or enemy, how do they sell a story?”

Yves again. Is the only reality in this piece the funhouse mirror world of personal beliefs? We have the employee’s self serving opinions versus Obama’s story of his grandmother. The story appears crafted to support Tidwell’s argument that that all we have are competing narratives. And if you take that perspective, you really ought to take the Humana workers’ view as gospels, since lots of them think the same way, and their views are based on tons of day-in, day-out experience, while all we have on the other side is Obama with his story of his mother. One tragic story clearly cannot stand up against so much collective experience.

Next we get this:

Humana’s profit margin was 2.2 percent in 2008 on revenues of nearly $29 billion. Its revenues have more than doubled since 2004, with almost all of the growth coming from the sale of privately administered Medicare Advantage plans. Those plans now account for the vast majority of Humana’s business, a real vulnerability if Mr. Obama succeeds in cutting Medicare Advantage because of its comparatively high administrative costs.

Humana has 28,000 employees, including 10,000 in Louisville, many of whom work in a monumental headquarters tower constructed of pink granite. It is the second-largest employer here and has built good will through philanthropy to the arts, the schools and health care.

Yves here. Again, the same message: Humana is nice, new rules could damage it.

Now the next in this series is that ” Kevin Sack will visit a struggling nonprofit health clinic in Milwaukee.” But a report on how a particular health care operation is faring is a separate piece, and does not counteract the one-sidedness of this treatment.

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  1. attempter

    Here's some of my favorite parts of this great piece:

    “I believe we’re getting the pushback because we are standing up for what we believe in,” said Cheryl Tidwell, 45, Humana’s director of commercial sales training. “We believe there’s a better way to control costs by controlling utilization and getting people involved in their health care.”

    Then why haven't you been doing it?

    "Getting people involved in their health care." – I guess that means they have online pamphlets on do-it-yourself at-home surgery, homeopathy, crystals, faith healing, etc.

    Mr. McCallister, whose annual compensation amounts to $4.8 million, said he worried about the impact of the rhetoric on staff morale. But he acknowledged that the industry bore some responsibility for its reputation. “Our industry has not done a great job of improving clarity and transparency,” he said.

    Yeah – there's no problem with our premise or our actions. These are all sound. But we're not getting our message across..

    Sounds just like the Democrats since 04.

    “You hear the horror stories about individuals having coverage denied, not getting full coverage, C.E.O.’s getting golden parachutes,” said Napoleon Dobbins, 57, a manager of Humana’s Medicare call center. “You don’t hear about the good, only the bad.”

    Umm, isn't "the good" supposed to be the norm? Is this capitalism or not? And you guys have been around a long time. Too long a time to want medals for being merely "good".

    The very argument concedes that there is a tremendous amount of bad intrinsic to this sector.

    The workers said they found the political attacks surprising given the insurance industry’s engagement in this year’s debate. The companies have agreed to stop rejecting applicants with pre-existing health conditions if the government will mandate health coverage, creating vast new markets.

    Well that's big of them. "Give us a humongous new subsidy, and we'll pretend we're going to engage in some mild reform." (Which again, according to their own premise, is something they should've done a long time ago. They're so "good", after all.)

    Mr. Shireman said he endured “the normal evil insurance company thing” from friends who work at the corporate headquarters for Papa John’s Pizza in Louisville. “I just kind of laugh and say, ‘Well, you’re putting people on the tables; we’re just trying to fix them,’ ” he said.

    Har har, corporate thugs yukking it up about their crimes. Charming.

    A number of employees said they were concerned about their jobs, particularly given the emphasis in Washington on reducing the administrative costs of health insurance.

    “I am an administrative cost,” Mr. Osterman said. “The reason a public option would be able to get away with those low costs is if they took people like me out of the picture.”

    Yes. Exactly. We'll "get away" with lowering our costs once parasites like you are eradicated.

  2. Francois

    I guess no one sent you the memo about the American Izvestia, better known as mainstream media:

    "It shall be the Prime Directive of the American journalists, as a class, comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted, and see nothing odd about this."

    So spoke the Komintern of Das Korporation.

  3. skippy

    The real death panels are located in boardrooms and peoples illness are dragging down the share price.

    Skippy…Corperations always have the general publics interest in mind, right.

  4. ds

    Nice post. This is reflective of a lot of what goes on at the NYT nowadays. I think the editors really fear the liberal bias charge, and it motivates them to put out puff pieces such as this on occasion.

    I particularly like the mention of the 28,000 employees at Humana. If there were a piece talking about the many thousands of people who work for Medicare, it would be upheld as evidence of the terrible inefficiency of government bureaucracy. But when it is the (non-union) private sector employing thousands of administrators, well, that represents people's jobs and livelihoods.

    The piece also touches on one of the arguments that insurance corporations use: that their profit margins are only 2-3% of revenues. But they don't tell you that they are able to double their revenues every five years. In what other mature, competitive industry can companies do that? Utilities certainly cannot.

    As an aside though, you mention that you "hate to draw an extreme comparison….but". If you hate to make the comparison and it is not really necessary then don't. There are too many people "hating to make the comparison" as well over on Fox News….

  5. Richard Kline

    My rebuttal to Humana's 'kiss me I'm lovable' offensive is this: "You think you're so great but where's the real competition: insurance is a rigged game. Give me a public option, and let me choose. You'll find out just how great we think you are then, buddy loves. Till then, we're captive serfs—which Prez O and Co. wish to make captives by law rather than circumstance! So I'll repeat: give me an alternative to YOU, and let me choose. I think we both know what the results will be."

    And regarding Sack's hackery, it would have been entirely appropriate to juxtapose this public relations broadsheet masquerading as journalism—does anyone wonder if he has a close relative or friend in the industry p'rhaps?—he out to have done a close read, published concurrently, with the, say, the administrators of Canada's health system on how and why _they_ perceive that they give good value to their fellow citizens. Including what _their_ salaries are, and the fact that, being nonprofit, they don't have to scrape that profit percent off the hides of their captive service base. And quoting what _their_ rejection rates are on procedures compared to Humana's.

    Y'know: present a balanced case and let the reader make up their mind which better serves. . . . Oops, did I say something wrong? What do you mean, Sacks-for-hire, that presenting a _FAIR AND BALANCED CASE_ wasn't the goal. And contrasting Humana with an isolated, desperately underfunded 'health clinic' is not a fair contrast: it's fakery. Because we are not choosing between going to Human or that nonprofit clinic, as of today, but choosing between being enslaved by the Humanas or chartering Canada's equivalent for ourselves with _OUR_ money. But that's not the comparison Sacks is going to present, is it? That defines his goals right there: fake, skewed contrasts.

  6. Namazu

    The Nazis thought they were good people, as did the Communists, the Socialists, the New Dealers, the architects of the War on Poverty, as do those who think we can graft on Sweden's healthcare system and live happily after. Perhaps they all were and are, but in America the left never owns up to the consequences of its ideas. [European intellectuals, by contrast, tend to acknowledge this stubborn little thing called history.] The NYT writes fluff pieces all the time, but its target audience doesn't seem to mind as long as they're the ones getting fluffed.

  7. cactus

    Yves — I loved your article and perspective on the issue and I strongly agree with several of the points made in your post. What disappoints me the most in this NYT attempt at journalism is that we have singled-out insurance as the focal point of problems and reform in the health system and we consistently fail to see that many of the problems are not in any single part of the system itself, but in the ways that these various health stake-holders interact.

    I'm certain if the NYT had interviewed nurses and docs at your average hospital, or CVS pharmacists you'd also get the impression that they live/work in a perfectly efficient operation, make an honest living and are generally not to blame for this mess. Picking up the various gears in the mechanism and trying to spot the defects is a futile effort when it is the overall transmission mechanism that is broken.

    Humana for example, spends a huge amount of resources contracting and re-contracting with providers, docs/hospitals also need to hire additional staff to handle the paperwork and interactions with the insurer. These network arrangements are generally ripe with inefficiencies, encourage bad behavior and create a highly rigged and non-transparent system. None of these activities in of themselves produce a profit or create economic value and yet from the stand-point of Humana or their counter-parties they are perfectly legit and necessary for the business.

    I'd love to see major media outlet take on a more serious dive into the murky waters of these interactions. Instead, what we get is article after article singling-out and blaming the insurers, blaming the medical community, blaming the government programs, Big Pharma, etc. It is a major waste of precious public energy.

    Disclosure: I'm a health actuary at a major consulting shop. (ie. also have a stake in the current system).

  8. Peripheral Visionary

    I'll take the other side of this. The insurance industry is a huge industry, employing (with its symbiotic partner the healthcare industry) a tremendous number of people. Yes, the "other side" should have had its views represented, but both the industry and its workers should be heard from in this debate.

    And a 2% profit margin isn't exactly the stuff that Harvard Business School case studies in success are made of. I don't know how many insurance company executives cackling as they sit atop mountains of money there are, but it's surely less than for finance or technology.

    The reality is more mundane, and more difficult: healthcare is exensive because it's terribly inefficient. The drudgery of record-keeping and claims processing requires far more people than a more efficient system would. Improving the system will mean more efficient processes; and it will also have immediate consequences for the people in insurance whose jobs depend on that inefficiency.

    As I like to say, one man's inefficiency is another man's job. The insurance industry has nowhere near the number of high-rollers making huge amounts of money that the finance industry had (and still has.) Instead, it is overwhelmingly pink-collar workers making modest wages doing tedious work, and whose jobs are very much at risk should there be a major change to the system.

    That's a perspective that needs to be made apparent. We have a decision to make, and that is between making the system more efficient, at the cost of many, many middle-income jobs, or keeping the grossly inefficient system in place, with fewer job losses but with a higher burden on the people paying for the system through taxes or premiums. We need to be frankly honest about that situation, rather than launching imaginary crusades against phantom insurance overlords raking in vast amounts of ill-gotten gains.

    (And I'll second what Cactus just said. Also, I don't work in healthcare, but have worked as a service provider in the past, so I know the industry from direct experience.)

  9. Galton

    Yves, when are you going to take apart their income statement/balance sheet to demolish their nonsense claim that they "only" make a 2% profit?

    They make 20% return on equity from my quick calc. Why should their margin be considered the useful measure?

    More importantly, they make about $1.3 billion _a quarter_ after cost of goods sold on sales about $7.5 billion (roughly the average per quarter over last year). The difference between this and their final profit is mostly sales, general and administrative.

    Assuming much of this is activity that serves no useful purpose (sales, preventing payments, etc), there is a considerable margin that is simply lost to things that serve no function to society, i.e. denying payment to the sick (if you 'just pay', you should have much lower administrative costs).

    I'll have to tear into their financials a bit more carefully, but I'd be happy to suggest that one-eighth to one-sixth ($1 bln of almost eight a quarter) represents a pure dead loss to society compared to e.g. medicare.

  10. Dan Duncan

    Who cares about Humana fluff pieces? The issue at hand is health reform. Meaningful health reform was dead on the arrival of 1100 F—ing pages of turgid bullshit that guaranteed the insipid muddled "debate" b/w the Left and Right.

    Don't be angry that the "other side" doesn't agree with your views on health reform…and that the MSM is disingenuous. What did you expect?

    If you really wanted health reform…then be angry that The Health Care Messiah fulfilled the prophecy by serving up an 1100 page Revelation that reveals nothing but wanton obfuscation.

    Go to any random page in HR 3200 and you'll be met with gems like this:

    (a) Grandfathered Health Insurance Coverage Defined- Subject to the succeeding provisions of this section, for purposes of establishing acceptable coverage under this division, the term ‘grandfathered health insurance coverage’ means individual health insurance coverage that is offered and in force and effect before the first day of Y1 if the following conditions are met:


    (A) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in this paragraph, the individual health insurance issuer offering such coverage does not enroll any individual in such coverage if the first effective date of coverage is on or after the first day of Y1.

    (B) DEPENDENT COVERAGE PERMITTED- Subparagraph (A) shall not affect the subsequent enrollment of a dependent of an individual who is covered as of such first day.

    (2) LIMITATION ON CHANGES IN TERMS OR CONDITIONS- Subject to paragraph (3) and except as required by law, the issuer does not change any of its terms or conditions, including benefits and cost-sharing, from those in effect as of the day before the first day of Y1.

    (3) RESTRICTIONS ON PREMIUM INCREASES- The issuer cannot vary the percentage increase in the premium for a risk group of enrollees in specific grandfathered health insurance coverage without changing the premium for all enrollees in the same risk group at the same rate, as specified by the Commissioner.

    Gimme a break. Seriously, read it:

    Para (a)establishes the conditions for New Enrollment. Fine.

    Para (1) then establishes Limits on (a).

    Subpara (A) then carves out an exception with a negative. [While reading it, pretend you are a one armed man clapping.]

    Subpara (B): But wait! This subpara says subpara (A) shall NOT "affect subesequent enrollment of a dependent of an individual".
    [Whew! What a relief this clause is!]

    Para 2. then begins to address Limitations on Changes in Terms as they pertain to this Section…but Para 2 is subject to Para 3. So before reading Para 2, you might as well read Para 3. {oh yeah, and Para 2 also says "except as provided by law", so it does not apply if some other law is already in effect}.

    Para 3. says insurer cannot vary the % increase of a premium without changing (ie "VARYING") the premium for all enrollees. [So, the insurer cannot vary the % increase…unless the insurer varies the premium for all enrollees. Gee…thanks.]

    And this is on 1/2 of one random page in this obscenity.

    And the Left blames the Right for being outraged…confused…and yes, opportunistic.

    The Health Reform bill is a load of shit.

    For further clarity, we all need to stop and heed the words of none other than Derrida…the patron saint of bullshit masquerading as Legal Positivism:

    "Deconstruction involves a reduction of the reduction…which opens the way to an infinite discursiveness".

  11. flarenut

    What Galton said. Retailers consider themselves to be doing incredibly well if they make half a percent profit on sales. Because if you go out every day and buy something for $1.99 and sell it for $2, by the end of the year you've almost doubled your original investment. (And if most of the money you're working with — premiums — is someone else's, so much the better.)

    The very act of reporting margin on revenue instead of return on equity is spin.

  12. Siggy

    If your employer provides 'medical benefits' that are identified as being health insurance, that identification is probably a lie.

    Almost all company provided medical benefits programs are a form of self insurance. What the 'insurance company is providing is a negotiated contract and their services in claims administration. Your employer benefits by being able to pay for your medical benefits at a relatively favorable rate. Your copay is a charge for administrative services.

    If you have real medical benefits insurance, you pay for it yourself, your premiums are extremely high and going higher.

    When I get a bill from my doctor, the fee is usually some astronomical number. Then comes my company benefits plan saying that the fee has been negotiated down to some apparently low number, and then I'm told that my coverage only goes so far and I must now pay the remaining balance.

    How is the Tax code written to cover the doctor's charged fee, and the contract fee he agreed to accept for the service he provided? It's very difficult to compare programs; what is the market contract fee for a service?

    It seems that the chorus of 'evil directors of human resources' are remarkably silent in the current dialogue. Could it be that they know all too well that there is no real insurance and that the employer is bearing the entire cost of employee medical benefits?

  13. LeeAnne

    Thank you for the hard work of parsing this article to reveal the propaganda. Although propaganda has always been around and conflated with consumer promotion and advertising, corporate consolidation of 'news' now serves only the interests of the corporations that own it, and that interest is to exploit for cash.

    In an Aspen conference Dan Rather likens 'media consolidation to that of the banking industry, Rather claimed that “roughly 80 percent” of the media is controlled by no more than six, and possibly as few as four, corporations.' here Although he didn't address government and corporate propaganda directly corporate consolidation is supportive of propaganda.

    His comments at the same conference about the Internet should also be of interest here '"As for the Internet, its potential has hardly been tapped, Rather said, calling it one of the “great innovations.” 'Even so, he said he has concerns about online blogging and reporting, chiefly because of the lack of accountability.' “On the Internet, nobody wants censorship … just put anything out there with no accountability.”'

    Could Rather be a candidate for helping create a model for an association of news and commentary adherence to journalism standards on blogs?

    '“A democracy and free people cannot thrive without a fiercely independent press,” he said.'

  14. John K

    A very good post. But Obama's story concerned his MOTHER, not his "grandmother." You're unnecessarily undercutting your persuasive argument by misreading what you've just posted.

  15. DownSouth

    @Dan Duncan,

    I have to agree. I believe healthcare "reform" under the current administration and the current congress would be a repeat of the type of "reform" we saw in 2003 with the enactment of the drug benefit bill for the elderly. In hindsight, that bill has proved to be little more than a boon for powerful industry players at enormous cost to the taxpayers.,_Improvement,_and_Modernization_Act

    The political-economic system we currently practice in the U.S. is what Hannah Arendt in Crises of the Republic called "state capitalism." It results when economic interests come to own the government. It is no different, she asserts, than state socialism, the system practiced in communist Russia, where the government came to own the economic interests. In both state capitalism and state socialism, governmental and economic power have been merged, becoming inseparable.

    U.S. politicians seem intent upon fanning the flames of this chiliastic battle between capitalism and socialism. But, as Arendt goes on to explain, "the alternative between capitalism and socialism is false–not only because neither exists anywhere in its pure state anyhow, but because we have here twins, each wearing a different hat."

    The politicians serve their wealthy patrons well if they can get the people off on this capitalism vs. socialism bunny trail. It obscures from the voters the fact that, as Robert Huges put it, both parties are "of upper-middle-class interests" and that, as E.J. Dione eloquently argued in Why Americans Hate Politics: "[T]here is no bloc in Congress or the Senate that truly represents the needs or opinions of people in the enormous central band of American life where workers and the middle class overlap."

    And while the voters are distracted, the process of expropriation marches inexorably onward:

    Overtaxation, a de facto devaluation of currency, inflation coupled with a recession–what else are these but relatively mild forms of expropriation?
    All our experiences–as distinguished from theories and ideologies–tell us that the process of expropriation, which started with the rise of capitalism, does not stop with the expropriation of the means of production; only legal and political institutions that are independent of the economic forces and their automatism can control and check the inherently monstrous potentialities of this process… What protects freedom is the division between governmental and economic power, or, to put into Marxian language, the fact that the state and its constituion are not superstructures.

    What protects us in the so-called "capitalist" countries of the West is not capitalism, but a legal system that prevents the daydreams of big-business management of trespassing into the private sphere of its employees from coming true. But this dream does come true wherever the government itself becomes the employer.

  16. Unfunded Deficit

    Siggy wrote: "Could it be that they know all too well that there is no real insurance and that the employer is bearing the entire cost of employee medical benefits?" — Not sure I am understanding you completely correctly but this is something I've wondered about. For example, I am an American living in France in need of constant medication called metronidazole manufactured by Galderma for a very common and incurable skin problem. In France it costs about 6 euros (8-9 dollars) at the drugstore. In the U.S. it costs — or did cost about 80 to 120 dollars for the exact same thing! I see online it's less now since the introduction of a generic — anywhere from 19 to 75 dollars. But my Texas sister-in-law whose university health care plan partly covers her drugs still had a co-pay of some 8 dollars for the same drug — the same full price I pay for it in France. So my question was — who is getting screwed — her employer, the university, for helping to pay some exorbitant high price for the medicine or my sister-in-law, who in a sense is paying full price for it anyway? Or both?

  17. sherifffruitfly

    Just like the run-up to the Iraq war.

    Sigh. Remind me again why newspapers are oh-so indispensable?

  18. Siggy

    Your Sister and her employer are getting screwed.

    In France, it is probably France that is getting screwed in that the state is subsidizing all medical care.

    You also live in place where 'medical insurance' is virtually universal and portable. Individuals pay very high taxes, corporations find the tax rates more favorable.

    Given all that, you provide a very interesting observation, medical care in Europe is every bit as good as it is here in the US and generally cheaper. The hidden cost in Europe is high taxation which carries the brunt of the provided social services.

  19. skippy

    @Dan D,

    Too right! How can you present such a tomb of gibberish and expect reform, it really does beg the question of why was it done in such a manner.

    I fear too much *not in my America* is being flung about and the real questions: health care delivery/costings go unanswered. Is it rational to assume with such an important issue that only for profit/market vehicles are the way to go. Hell if the government vis a vi the taxpayer (see citizen) spend so heavily on the private sector (see bailout) which they created, why not health care. With some thing so intrinsic as reasonable medical care one would think_ prioritize needs_ in society ie: easy credit, high leverage investment, wildly fluctuating asset classes, job cycles (see mobile workforce), that Americans could on this one issue at least find some common ground as a group, it is for everyone, right.

    This is the one gift that all could share in, regardless of politics or ideology, an embracement of each other with out distinction. Yet so many would posture or position them selves purely for profit or deny others for selfish reasons.

    Skippy… its carpe diem, untill you think your going to die, then its la faccia della morte.


    Una vita senza ricerca non è degna per l'uomo di essere vissuta


    I have one last lesson to teach: they have to kill me because they know what they did. La città dovrà affrontare la propria colpevolezza. The city must face their own guilt. (citato in George Steiner, Totem o tabù , in Nessuna passione spenta , p. 152) (quoted in George Steiner, Totem and Taboo.

  20. VG Chicago

    Health insurance companies (Humana in particular) are just criminal mafia organizations, and their management just ordinary murderers with thousands of people on their consciences. They need not only be put out of business, but also they should be tried like the murderers that they are, then be put to death by lethal injection (fully covered by Medicare, but of course).

    Vinny G.

    PS – I just returned from Crete, and I must say… what a literal piece of garbage has that stinking island become. It’s the quintessential example of why the European Union is such a miserable failure. Next time I want to go to a seaside area where Greek is spoken, I’ll just go down to Tarpon Springs, Florida, where you can actually meet Greeks that can hold an intelligent conversation… as opposed to the drunken imbeciles in Greece that are simply being… European ignoramuses…LOL

  21. VG Chicago

    Sure, the Times did a lousy job on this story. But I’d like to point out to our vehement European contributors that they are being lied to even worse. At least here the media still has a sense of humor, which I can’t say about the BBC.

    Vinny G.

  22. Hugh

    "And the Left blames the Right for being outraged…confused…and yes, opportunistic."

    Dan D, I would also add flatout crazy. HR3200 is a monstrosity. So was the Patriot Act which was I think even longer and got passed in a much shorter time. Actually a lot of us out here on the Left have been very critical of this bill for quite a while. We have seen it as a sellout to the insurance, drug, and medical companies, forcing people to participate in a rigged private system via mandates, and doing nothing to control skyrocketing healthcare costs. If you want something simpler, there is HR676 which many of us do support. It is single payer universal healthcare. It would look a lot like Medicare for All but without some of Medicare's problems. It is the only plan that would actually save money in our economy. And if the experience of our nations with it is any guide would deliver better health outcomes for us. And it is only 30 pages long.

  23. skippy


    Ethnic American….went to Latin class….whilst in the Army….from the field….into the class room….and got a *B*, ha ha.

    Latin is dead and I fail to feel it where Italian rings in my ears, especially Venetian dialect.

    Skippy…I still felt they are most apropos.

  24. Unfunded Deficit

    Siggy wrote "In France, it is probably France that is getting screwed in that the state is subsidizing all medical care." – Drug prices are controlled in France as they are in most European countries. So drug companies are not screwing the French like they screw Americans.
    "Given all that, you provide a very interesting observation, medical care in Europe is every bit as good as it is here in the US and generally cheaper. The hidden cost in Europe is high taxation which carries the brunt of the provided social services."
    The French healthcare system is rated the best in the world by the World Health Organization. The French spend far less on healthcare than the U.S. with less of a burden on taxpayers.
    France spends $3937 per capita on health care — about two-thirds the expenditures of the United States, which at $6719 per capita is the most expensive healthcare system in the world. Total expenditures on health in the U.S. are 15.3 percent of GDP compared to 11 percent in France.
    Yet the French government spends only slightly more per capita on health than the U.S. government — $3,139 compared to $3,076, according to the latest WHO statistics. In fact, the U.S. government spends a higher percent of its budget on health care than France – 19.3 percent compared to 16.7 for the French government, which nevertheless pays 79.7 percent of all healthcare expenditures of its citizens compared to 45.8 for the U.S. government. And still, despite spending so relatively little, France manages to have more doctors and double the number of hospital beds per capita than the U.S. However the U.S. has twice as many dental workers.
    It’s not the French taxpayers who are getting screwed but American taxpayers.
    French people live longer and have healthier, happier lives. The cost of being healthy and free from anxiety is not hidden but borne willingly (except by the very rich) – borne with even greater appreciation I would say during this economic crisis. Europeans are watching with horror the revelations about America’s uniquely American for-profit healthcare system. Their safety net is becoming much more visible.

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