Thursday, May 21, 2009


Elizabeth Edwards: President of United Health Care Made Almost $3 Billion a Few Years Ago

Check out the clip below of Elizabeth Edwards on the Daily Show. Start it around the 3:00 mark. She is a policy fellow at the Center for American Progress, where she works on health care reform. In the clip, she says that a few years ago, the president of United Health Care earned so much money, that it worked out to 1 out of every 700 dollars spent in the country on health care. The audience gasped.

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So I turned to my trusty Google, and found that in 2005, health care expenditures in the US were "almost" $2 trillion. So if the president of United Health Care pulled down 1/7ooth of that, he earned about $2.9 billion. Really?

Presumably Mrs. Edwards can come up with some subset of health care expenditures to make her claim accurate. But you know, I'm not sure how. I tried googling "elizabeth edwards president united health care" thinking that somebody would have justified / blew up her absurd claim. This site deals with it, and says "Indeed..." and goes on to point out that some CEOs made upwards of $11 million each.

Soooo, do these writers think that total health care expenditures in any recent year were only $11 million x 700 = $7.7 billion? Off the top of my head, that sounds more like what Americans spend on over the counter medicines, not "health care" in general.

It seems like the policy fellows at Center for American Progress need a remedial course in arithmetic.

hello mr. murphy,

my name is o'sullivan.

you are a bad man, a bad human.

i don't have the words or the time or the care to explain myself and my conclusion thoroughly. you will never understand what i say. you will refuse to consider my opposing thoughts. you are blocked mentally, toward always agreeing with what you have previously thought. you cannot abandon your dogma for a slight second to examine another course objectively. a small part of your mind has dungeoned the rest which was once free and once open as a child's.

you want money. you are a bad man.

don't tell me i am wrong. convince yourself.
Maybe you should try a little investigating yourself. Perhaps Edwards was referring to this,

Maybe you should also apply an extra 10 seconds to the 10 you used to search google to also try wikipedia.

Now maybe 1.1 billion isn't 1 in every $700 if Edwards meant to speak about total US healthcare costs as a chunk of our GDP, but even if we do use those numbers it's still 1 out of every $2,182. Maybe that's more acceptable for you I don't know but it should give you a moment to pause and hopefully think.

I wonder how many more services could be offered using a billion dollars for patients? If there were a government provided service there certainly won't be a CEO making that amount.
>> Now maybe 1.1 billion isn't 1 in every $700 ...<<

So, Anonymous, if I understand your point, then, Mrs. Edwards was justified in lying because her cause was "just." Just trying to clarify.
The Blackadder Says:

If you read the links the other Anonymous guy provided, it is said that the United Healthcare guy (William McGuire)'s severance "could be as much as $1.1 billion." Of course, "could be" is not the same as "was" and after googling a bit I found this story which says McGuire's severance was $6.5 million, plus $5.1 million a year for life. So I guess that "could be" as much as $1.1 billion... if he lived to be 270.
The Blackadder Says:

I do agree with brian, though. You are a bad man, Mr. Murphy. A bad, bad man. All that mathematics has destroyed your soul.
It's funny, this morning I felt bad because I thought, "Surely I misunderstood Mrs. Edwards, and she was saying that this guy got 1/700 of the dollars spent by people on his health plan, not by people in the entire country."

But now it looks indeed as if the claim is for the whole country.
Blackadder said:

So I guess that "could be" as much as $1.1 billion... if he lived to be 270.
And Bernanke pushes down even long-term interest rates to 0%.

That settles it, the CAP fellows really need an accountant to come in and explain discounting future cash flows.
She's a leftist with cancer, i.e. she's inherently virtuous and she's a victim.

She's also a woman

That's THREE free get out of jail cards.

Bob, I don't think you know who you are dealing with.

This isn't a mere mortal.

It's a leftist. With cancer. And female.

You're clearly in the wrong to bring facts into this ..
"If there were a government provided service there certainly won't be a CEO making that amount."

You are right, there wouldn't be a CEO making that much, instead there would be waste and misalocation totaling much more than that.
It is correct that McGuire got 1/700 of the dollars spent by people on his health plan. Although that is not 1/700 of the total spent by people in the entire country, it is still a very large amount.
I don't believe Mrs Edwards is lying. As a professional health care worker I've witnessed our troubled health care system up close on a daily basis. In the last 20 years what was once a strong, organized, reasonable system has continued to deteriorate to a point of no return. Insurance companies have manipulated and raped the health care system and what we once had until it is now no longer salvagable. It is unfortunate that greed was allowed to supercede health and common sense. Those of you who believe in what's left of our system obviously have never fell ill. Not yet anyway.......West Coast Big City RN
I was amazed that Daily gave her a free pass on that obviously ridiculous stat...but why mess up a good statistic with the truth.
Edwards probably misspoke. She seemed kind of nervous throughout the interview.

McGuire's estimated income was somewhere around $100,000,000 in 2005, and United Healthcare took in $71,000,000,000. So 1 in $700 of total revenue for the company is plausible. And no matter how you cut it, that's a whole lot of moolah that could have provided health expenses for a whole lotta folks.
Found elsewhere on the internet:

CEO McGuire's pay + stock options, 2005: approx 1 billion
total personal health care expenditures, 2005: 1,665 billion
leaving roughly 1:900 ratio.

So Mrs. Edwards numbers are in the realm of plausibility. Anyway you slice it, this guy's reward package would never have happened under a gov't plan. But I'm sure United's customers thought he was worth it ;)
McGuire was hit with a half billion dollar fine, forced to resign and barred from serving as a CEO for 10 years. If you add that half billion back in it is probably around 1 in 700.
Edwards later explained that she mispoke. 1 in every 7 dollars paid to THAT insurance company went to the CEO.
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