Why Should an Insurance Company Exec Earn $13.5 Million a Year?
Donna Smith, a community organizer for National Nurses United, wrote the following for the Common Dreams blog:
Guarding Health is Not Their Business, But It is Ours
By Donna Smith
If for one moment anyone has the notion that for-profit health insurance companies are in the business of guarding the health (or wealth) of policyholders, that notion ought to be quickly dismissed in favor of the truth. For-profit health insurance giants guard profits.
I arrived outside the WellPoint annual shareholders meeting in a hotel in Indianapolis yesterday to be greeted by more guards (and some armed) than I have seen surrounding President Obama at times. Apparently just the prospect of having some of the legal shareholders question the business practices and ethics of the WellPoint board and CEO Angela Braly was very scary for the company and its elite leaders.
Some of the shareholders have in recent years put forward a resolution supporting WellPoint’s return to its non-profit roots. After last year’s meeting, the resolution earned 9.6 percent or 30,000,000 shareholder votes. The current leadership doesn’t like that nor do they like the efforts of the shareholders who keep challenging them.
One shareholder asked Ms. Braly at yesterday’s tightly controlled and guarded meeting, as a sort of speakers’ “shot clock” counted down her speaking time, “Tell me, Ms. Braly, could you please explain what you do that warrants a salary ($13.5 million annually) that is more than 375 public school teachers in Indiana earn?” Braly’s answer was a classic. No shot-clock running for the CEO as she explained that the board sets her compensation and it has to be competitive with the other comparable giants in the insurance industry. It is a breathtaking demonstration of greed and hubris.
It’s telling that Braly would be so blasé in defending her outrageous salary. It’s even more telling that Wellpoint overseers felt the need to surround the building with armed guards. All that’s missing is a moat and a court jester. These people are completely detached from the hardships they are inflicting on their customers. The spectacle of unabashed greed and sense of entitlement that Donna Smith describes here demonstrates how out of whack our country’s priorities have become. Our society now values a small group of profiteers at the expense of the rest of us who are barely scraping by in a difficult economy. Braly and her fellow robber barons produce nothing of value while shamelessly gouging millions of hardworking Americans. Health insurers are simply leeches, and they must be immediately removed from our healthcare system before they suck all of us dry.