Susan Bayh and WellPoint:
What Hoosiers know about health care
By Harry Targ / The Rag Blog / July 24, 2009
My own preference would be —- and you may have found common ground here this morning on Easter, which is appropriate —- deal with the inefficiencies, figure out a way to make the private marketplace accomplish our public good, only have the government role as a backstop, as a last resort, if the private sector has just failed to meet the challenge. — Evan Bayh on Fox, Sunday, April 12, 2009
Senator Evan Bayh is one of those so-called “blue dog” Democrats who remain ambivalent about parts of the Obama political agenda, particularly the Employee Free Choice Act (despite his long-time popularity with Indiana trade unionists) and health care reform.
Hoosiers see through Bayh’s principles for opposing these centerpieces of economic and social reform. Evidence is particularly clear on what is behind Bayh’s opposition to any change in health care policy in the United States.
For example, Fort Wayne’s Journal Gazette reported on December 15, 2007 (Sylvia A. Smith, Washington editor) that the senator’s wife, Susan Bayh, earned $248,700 from stock options she “earned” from participation on the corporate board of WellPoint, Inc. and sold when the stock was at its highest price. Over the prior four years, the paper reported, Bayh earned money from sales of stocks eight times from Wellpoint, the health insurance giant; Curis Inc., a pharmaceutical developer, and the E-Trade bank. She gained $1.7 million in pre-tax earnings from seven of these transactions.
The story also listed Susan Bayh’s 2007 public transactions including, in January, the purchase of 3,333 shares of WellPoint stock at $44.18 per share and selling them for $78 earning $112,722, and, in May, the acquisition of the same number of shares and selling them for $84.98 per share earning $135,978.In 2006, Bayh bought 20,001 shares of WellPoint and sold them earning $796,078.
The Lafayette Journal and Courier (Maureen Groppe, Gannett Washington Bureau) reported on June 15, 2009 that Susan Bayh owns between $500,000 and $1 million in employee stock in the “Indianapolis-based insurance giant,” WellPoint. WellPoint is one of eight corporate boards she sits on including the Curis, the pharmaceutical developer.
Daniel Lee, Indianapolis Star columnist reported on May 17 that the WellPoint executive board is trying to influence the public debate on health care to forestall the emergence of a “public option.” If that is not possible, Lee suggested, private insurers would want to create a system in which private companies control the public option. Lee quoted Common Cause CEO, Bob Edgar, who said that “many of the corporations who benefit from health care have come around to realize that while they may lose some of the things they were hoping to protect, if they move to universal coverage there will be more money across the board for everybody.”
WellPoint, with 35 million customers, is the largest commercial insurance provider, controlling Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The company made $2.5 billion in profits in 2008. Spokespersons have said that they could support expanding coverage to the 45 million without coverage and even could drop restrictions on coverage to people with pre-existing health problems. Brad Fluegel, Chief Strategy Officer of the company, said that “we can do it in a way that’s fair and equitable for folks. There is no need really for a government-run plan.”
As to WellPoint’s political activity, in 2006 the company gave $430,580 to federal candidates; 16% to Democrats, 82% to Republicans and two percent to Joe Lieberman. Lee indicated that in 2008 WellPoint spent $4.33 million on federal lobbying and made three million calls to consumers.
And then there are critically placed political influentials such as Susan Bayh. Although the Senator is “agnostic” on health care, his aides point out that the couple do not discuss any issues related to WellPoint.
If any one believes these spokespersons, I have a Hoosier bridge I can sell them cheap.
[Harry Tarq is a Hoosier. He is a professor in American Studies who lives in West Lafayette, Indiana. He blogs at Diary of a Heartland Radical, where this article also appears.]