Chances are that someone reading this post just paid a large medical bill, either through having to meet the deductible their insurance company imposes on them, or because of a large hospital bill, or because their drugs are expensive. Is that you?
If it is, you’ll be pleased to hear that the companies that just bilked you of your hard-earned cash are doing great, thanks to the class warfare tax bill passed by the GOP last year. Axios’ Bob Herman on Friday calculated the savings that healthcare companies have seen so far this year based on the changes in the bill. As Herman notes, this “rerouted billions of dollars from the federal treasury into the bank accounts of health care companies and Wall Street investors.” Neat!
The numbers, per Axios:
UnitedHealth Group: $1.1 billion
Bristol-Myers Squibb: $463 million
Johnson & Johnson: $430 million
Gilead: $413 million
Biogen: $118 million
Universal Health Services: $92 million
Hey, UnitedHealth! That’s my insurer! The insurer who gets $60 a paycheck from me twice a month! You’re welcome, guys.
If you’re not familiar with them, three of the other companies are pharmaceutical companies, Biogen is a biotech company, and United Health Services is a hospital management company. UHS’ CEO Alan Miller makes 541 times as much as the average UHS employee, with $21.6 million in total compensation; the average employee makes less than $40,000.
Last year, UnitedHealth Group spent $4.4 million on lobbying in 2017. Their savings from the tax bill this year were 250 times that, and that’s just through the third quarter of the year.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could give, say, $10 to UnitedHealth Group and receive a $2500 check in return? My share of premiums this year will be $1,440. Can I please have $360,000, UnitedHealth Group? (No, I haven’t used $360,000 in healthcare services. I’ve been to the doctor about five times, never for anything more complicated than migraines.)
No, I can’t have $360,000. And you can’t have it either. That’s only for big corporations and the rich people who run them.
Oh, and by the way, why do you think healthcare is so expensive in the first place? It’s partly because of pharmaceutical companies, who charge absurd prices for medications, and hospitals, who often just half-assedly make up prices for procedures, which actually cost a fraction of what they’re charging your insurers. That cost is eventually passed on to you, either through deductibles and co-insurance or increased premiums. And they all blame each other for this.
Meanwhile, the same party that gave away billions to these companies is pretending that it didn’t just try to make things even more profitable for them by allowing insurers to discriminate against people with preexisting conditions—something Republican attorneys general are still trying to do, while the rest of the party pretends they aren’t.
The GOP tax bill was designed to produce savings like this for big companies, which are already hugely profitable. But the problem is not just the tax bill, which merely tacked on a few more million dollars for companies that are already fundamentally disgusting.
Insurance companies profit by charging you and your employer more for your health insurance than they spend on care for you. Pharmaceutical companies profit by charging you and your insurer more than it costs them to make the drugs. Hospitals profit by charging you and your insurer more than it costs to treat you. This is how profit works. When you premise an entire healthcare system on the idea that every corporate entity deserves their share of the profit, this is what happens. The companies will fight and spend millions of dollars to ensure they can continue to do that.
If you’re sick of padding a CEO’s fat salary with your healthcare dollars, there’s only one way out of it.