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March 25, 1997

Plunder at the Top:

Who Is Really Pocketing Your Health-Care Dollars?

1John E. Abele (Trust Fund)Boston Scientific Corp.$922.5$0.76(16)
2Peter NicholasBoston Scientific Corp.$893.1$0.76(17)
3Peter Nicholas (Trust Fund)Boston Scientific Corp.$820.4 ---
4Leonard AbramsonU.S. Healthcare Inc.795.3$3.87(1)
5John E. AbeleBoston Scientific Corp.$735.2 ---
6Leonard SchaefferWellpoint Health Network$385.5$1.82(8)
7Philip Frost, MDIVAX Corp.$377.0$0.48(21)
8W. August HillenbrandHillenbrand Industries, Inc. $330.7$0.84(15)
9Richard L. ScottColumbia/HCA Healthcare$248.6$1.24(12)
10David A. JonesHumana, Inc.$232.6$2.30(5)
11Richard M. ScrushyHealthsouth Corp.$186.7$3.22(2)
12Norman C. Payson, MDHealthsource Inc.$145.1$0.40(22)
13Malik M. Hasan, MDHealth Systems, Intl.$141.3$2.66(4)
14Leon C. HirschU.S. Surgical Corp.$113.5$2.17(6)
15Steven M. Scott, MDCoastal Physician Group$111.5$0.67(19)
16Stuart OlstenOlsten Corp.$98.8$0.73(18)
17Abbey J. ButlerFoxMeyer Health Corp.$93.0$1.62(9)
18Thomas FristColumbia/HCA Healthcare$63.0$1.14(13)
19Charles N. MartinOrnda Healthcorp$44.2$1.44(10)
20Robert E. PatricelliValue Health Inc.$42.1 ---
21Daniel D. CrowleyFoundation Health Corp.$40.7$3.09(3)
22Allan HoopsPacifiCare$35.0$1.24(11)
23Wilson TaylorCigna$15.5$2.00$7)
24Westcott W. Price, IIIFHP International Corp.$12.8$0.51(20)
25Ronald E. ComptonAetna Life & Casualty$11.7$1.14(14)

[1] Stock Only Wealth -- in millions
[2] Direct Annual Income -- in millions
[3] Rank by Annual Income

From Wealth and Power in the U.S. Health Care Industry, by the Institute for Health & Socio-Economic Policy. The Monitor, January 1997.


by Townsend Walker

Study this table "Plunder at the Top" carefully, paying particular attention to the Company, Stock Wealth, and Annual Income columns. Therein is the explanation for why you are paying more for health care, receiving less, and often not knowing whether your bills for legitimate medical and hospital care will be paid. Health care by the rules of the market-place is driven more and more by these two imperatives: (1) maximum profit, to please the stockholders, and (2) minimum cost to beat the competition. For the patient these imperatives translate to: fewer nurses, less care by less qualified care-givers, enormous potential for poor morale among the hospital staff that can kill you, untimely dismissals from the hospital, pressure on the physician to refuse care, and much worry for you when someone in your family needs medical attention. The next time it's thrown up to you that publicly funded universal health care is "socialism" remember: It's health care a la capitalisme that's hurting you -- not socialism.

Just in case you missed the full import of the table of names and numbers, look at the line for Leonard Abramson, CEO of U.S. Healthcare Inc. whose stock is valued at $795 million, and whose direct annual income is nearly $4 million. Or, more modestly, consider Richard L. Scott, CEO of Columbia/HCA Healthcare with stock wealth of $248 million and an annual income of well over $1 million. Now, stand back and consider those handsome incomes from the perspective of seriously ill people being denied care -- like Patty Branham, a correctional institute officer, whose case against CIGNA Health Care of Ohio ended up in binding arbitration, and who did not live to learn that the state Supreme Court had ruled against her. Opined Branham's lawyer: "It's a classic case of managed care run amuck." Pity the thousands of insured blokes who daily, like Patty Branham, are turned away with a shrug and a wink by CEOs. The name of the game is Money, the mother milk's of for-profit health care.

Recently we received the latest issue of the very sophisticated newsletter of a multi-billion dollar foundation dedicated primarily to health-care concerns. Every article presupposed the rightness of for-profit health care, as in this statement encouraging the private sector to provide long-term care insurance coverage to more middle-income Americans: "We are also working on trying to get long-term care insurance integrated with managed care." In another article, a new study is quoted approvingly to the effect that "uninsured individuals generally receive fewer medical services and suffer poorer outcomes than those who have insurance." In neither reference is there any intimation that the system itself is at fault, though in 1987 the foundation redirected its purpose to focus on improving health services. And never to our recollection has favorable consideration been given by the foundation to the concept of health care as a human right and universal health care as the proper recognition of this right. What we want to emphasize is this: There are hundreds of tax-free foundations with scores of billion of dollars to assure that our privatized system of health care becomes ever more profit-driven. This particular foundation was created by the world's largest health and medical products conglomerate; it can be expected to use its vast resources to maintain the status quo. The only resource to this obscene power is to turn the political process on its head. That's why it's so important for working-class Americans to educate themselves to direct the political process.

The horror with which Englanders view the pernicious influence on their own lives of America's rush to privatization (the threat to the English National Health Service, for example) is seen in a recent article in the Guardian Weekly. John Gray, Professor of Politics at the University of Oxford, ends his article with these words: "In the U.S. deregulated markets have been promoted at the price of desolating society. That American model has little to teach anyone about how economic efficienty and social cohesion can be made to work together. In the coming century the European project will be to construct a dynamic market economy that is friendly to vital human needs. Britain should decouple itself from America's failing political culture and join its partners in shaping the European future."

According to The New York Times (12-1-96) Wall Street bankers showed a billionarie home builder and co- founder of the prosperous SunAmerica insurance empire how he could avoid paying a penny of an estimated $54 million in taxes by "lock(ing) in $194 million profits on some of his SunAmerica stock...." (Whatever that means!) But thousands of less fortunate owners of the same stock almost invariably have to sell it and face a Federal tax of up to 28% on profits. Drooled the billionaire, "We have our cake and are eating it too." Another reason why self- education on how the rich control the nation and let the workers pay the bills should have top priority with the organized working class.

Chapter 2 of the Constitutions of Republic of South Africa includes these rights, among many others:

Townsend Walker is a retired executive and editor of New Voices, New Vision in Huntsville, Alabama.

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