On June 28th, the Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, much to the shock and relief of some and the horror of others. Right around the same time, I received notice that Oxford Health Plans was requesting a 15.5% increase in its rates next year specifically for what they call small group Direct product. This request comes after a nearly 10% increase this year and an increase of approximately 20% last year. It seems this controversial bill is falling far short of protecting patients and providing them with “affordable” health care.
Of course Oxford claims it needs this increase because of the rising cost of medical care. Can’t argue with them there. The cost of medical care being funneled through ultra-rich, profiteering health insurance companies is leaving many of us either without any health care or impoverished as we try to pay for it.
What Oxford fails to mention is how it spends a good portion of its assets—and, lest anyone have any doubt, it isn’t on health care. Here are some jaw-dropping statistics:
Oxford Health Plans had a yearly revenue of over $1 BILLION in 2011. Its CEO, according to the current Bloomberg Business Week receives a salary of $779.0 K, a bonus of $981.5 K, total short-term compensation of $934.0 K, and a total value of options of $13.5 M. In 2002, profits amounted to $322.4 M for the corporation[i]. (Unfortunately, I could not find more recent profit statistics.)
In addition, in 2010, UnitedHealth Group, of which Oxford is a part, spent more than $1.8 million on lobbying activities to work to achieve favorable legislation, and hired seven different lobbying firms to work on its behalf[ii]. In addition, its corporate political action committee called “United for Health” spent an additional $1 million on lobbying activities in 2010[iii].
As I already noted, the increase that Oxford is requesting is specifically aimed at small group subscribers, that is those of us that have the fewest employees and therefore the lowest demand on Oxford for care. We also have the fewest assets to afford what we are already paying, let alone even more.
The reason I got notice of Oxford’s rate increase request is likely obvious. I work for one of those “small group Direct products.” I am the one and only staff person at Pax Christi Metro New York (PCMNY), the only region of PCUSA that struggles to maintain a full-time office and staff. Our annual budget is about $84,000, that is $84,000 to run the organization in its entirety for a year. Compare that to the income of Oxford’s CEO, just one obscenely overpaid person. As you can imagine, with an annual budget of $84,000, my salary is quite a bit smaller than his. On top of that, I do get one and only one benefit: health insurance, but the rising cost of health insurance is making it harder and harder for PCMNY to get by. I have received one raise in eight years, but Oxford has received a raise (my raise?) every year, and not a typical cost-of-living raise of about 3%, but the 20% last year, nearly10% this year, and potential 15.5% next year that I already cited.
I know of no individual or organization that has experienced anywhere near that kind of increase in income ever. Health insurance costs are killing small businesses and individuals figuratively and literally, but we can’t compete with the millions that these billion-dollar corporations spend on lobbyists and political action committees.
Pax Christi works to promote peace and social justice for all, but how can we do this vital work when we are forced to direct so much of our limited resources to the coffers of mega businesses like Oxford? How do we provide justice to our own, if we do not?
Rather than creating another layer of bureaucracy, supposedly to help lower income small businesses and individuals acquire “affordable” health care, the so-called Affordable Care Act needs to put a cap on what health insurance companies can charge. Ultimately, it needs to take the profit out of health care completely. Ultimately, we need universal, single-payer, Medicare-for-All.
Meanwhile, let those of us who are not driven by the profit motive, but rather by the Gospel of love and compassion, work for peace and social justice that assures greater economic equity for all, including health care as a right and not a privilege.
[ii] Center for Responsive Politics, accessed Feb. 3, 2011, http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/firmsum.php?lname=UnitedHealth+Group&year=2010
[iii] Center for Responsive Politics, accessed Feb. 3, 2011, http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00274431&cycle=2010
Rosemarie Pace is Director of Pax Christi Metro New York. She holds a Doctorate in Education from St. John’s University in New York City and an Advanced Professional Diploma in Religious Education from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education.