Friday, January 23, 2009

Selling a Bill of Goods

A provocative piece about Dr. Anthony Marlon, former chief executive of Sierra Health Services appeared in the Las Vegas Sun today:
Marlon is the founder and former chief executive of Health Plan of Nevada, the Las Vegas Valley’s introduction in 1982 to a health maintenance organization. Since early last year, Marlon has worked as a consultant for UnitedHealthcare after selling Sierra Health to UnitedHealth Group for $2.4 billion. His contract is up in February.

. . .

In 2007 Marlon was the highest paid nongaming executive in Las Vegas, with total compensation of $14.5 million, according to In Business Las Vegas’ 2008 Book of Business Lists.

Today the company has 500,000 members.

And that health insurance companies put patients before profits “is an age-old adage as inane as the person mouthing it. You don’t stay in business, and build an organization as we have here, by screwing the public. (emphasis mine) That’s not the way it works. You’ve got to provide a quality product that somebody comes back and wants to buy again.”

Health Plan of Nevada offered the first insurance policies that covered preventive care when its doors opened in 1982.
$14.5 million in compensation made off the backs of the its 500,000 members? Hmmm, that translates to $29 per policy holder, just to pay his ridiculous salary each year.

Seems like a screw job to me.

So, as a scientist and fellow physician, I ask Dr. Marlon to please, please, please explain the merits of his salary to his members who paid his salary year after year from their ever-increasing premiums. Why, exactly, does an insurance executive warrant a salary that is over 41 times a general cardiologist's salary?

After all, it's all about transparency, right?

What, cat got your tongue?



Anonymous said...

He who controls the cash flow can skim the most cream. No matter what buisness you look at, what you often see is people with greed as their main motivation, and inflated egos to match their outsized salaries making enormous incomes. They control how the money gets diveyed up, and apparently do so with very little board oversight (more likely complicity since many board members are also CEOs). Just take a look at the latest example, John Thain, who despite his financial services company laying in ruins if it were not for a goverment encouraged merger with Bank of America, still thought it was OK to pass out 4 billion dollars in bonuses to executives at Merril Lynch. It is a sense of entitlement that pervdesthe the corporate culture. Even if the company is going into the tank, I still deserve to get paid more and more for my brilliance.

One thing that struck me reading an Asosciated Press article on this topic, was that someone stated that many Wall Street bankers felt entitled to their outsized salries by virtue of the long hours they spend at their jobs. The parallel in medicine is quite obvious, since I often see physicians arguing that many years of school and long hours of labor justify their salaries. I would be inclined to believe this if I did not see my radiology and pathology colleugues promptly checking out a 5 PM while many who engage in direct patient care are the ones confronted with long hours and call responsibilities. Nevertheless, working long hours does not by itself justify getting a big paycheck. Ask any posessor of a doctoral degree in philosophy.

Anonymous said...

IMHO, insurance companies are the legal near-equivalent to a Ponzi scheme, with the exception being that the executives get the cash and the policy holders get the shaft.