Charlie Brown, Lucy and the Football: Aetna

Is there any chance on God's green earth that the White House and ABC News are going to let the head of a private insurance company put Barack Obama on the defensive in front of a national television audience? When Ron Williams, president of Aetna, was handed the microphone at the infomercial last Wednesday night, he may have thought so. But before he could get a word out, Diane Sawyer bushwhacked him with this obviously-prepared-carefully-choreographed zinger: Why Mr. Williams should your company be allowed to make billions in profits while there are so many people who cannot afford health care?

As long as we're bushwhacking Aetna, let me get in my shot. Why does Aetna refuse to support the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) and other organizations that made possible Health Savings Accounts and other consumer-driven products and continue to defend Aetna's right to make the profits that flow from them?

Hard to feel any sympathy for these guys.

Comments (12)

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  1. John R. Graham says:

    I would have another question for Mr. Williams: “Why are you participating in this circus when you have a business to run?”

    I’m afraid I did not invest any of my time in watching the infomercial, so I don’t know what Mr. Willams’ answer was. I suspect it was not the only appropriate one:

    “Ms Sawyer, can you tell my why you think the government should prevent Americans from investing their savings in health insurers, in order to make them solvent and saving taxpayers from yet another bailout, like Medicare and Medicaid subject them too every year?”

  2. Ken says:

    Great post.

  3. Tom H. says:

    Good observation. Hard to believe these guys are so naive.

  4. Ken says:

    Good post.

  5. Bart Ingles says:

    Don’t the insurance companies make less on high-deductible accounts? It doesn’t surprise me that insurance companies’ interests aren’t completely aligned with that of the NCPA.

    Moreover, it occurs to me that insurance companies would happily accept a federal requirement for pure community rating, an individual mandate, and comprehensive coverage. So long as all competitors are subject to the same requirements, this translates to a captive clientele and more business volume. Provided they can keep the same average markup, this would only increase profits.

  6. Blake says:

    Are you serious? Are you remotely relevant? Does anyhone actually believe your fear and hate? Im just curious. Additionally, is it the least bit possible that you would NOT be seen as anything other than a shil for the health care industry?

    80% of bankruptcies are because of medical bills.

  7. Jim Capatelli says:

    Hey John,
    I’m an entrepreneur. I run my own small business. I’m also 55 and I have a “pre-existing condition”. It doesn’t effect my day-to-day life or work ability (I average 70 hour weeks) but the private, for-profit insurance companies won’t touch me; I know. I’ve applied and they’ve essentially told me to get lost.

    So, will one of these nifty, corporate “HSA’s” you’re so fond of work for me? What do you suggest for someone like myself who just wants what ever member of Congress gets: good health care when I need it without going broke paying for it?

    Or is it more important for you to defend the “Return On Investment” for those addicted to the status quo?

  8. Ken says:

    Here’s one way to look at this. Aetna is obviously freeloading on the NCPA’s ideas. On the other hand, Aetna and other large insurers are pushing for a mandate to require everyone to buy their products so that ordinary people can’t freeload on the system.

    What;s wrong with this picture?

  9. John Goodman says:

    Response to Jim Capatelli:

    There are many policy solutions to the problem of pre-existing conditions. As I have previoulsly written at this blog, the ideal solution is described here:

    However, none of this has anything to do with HSAs. Patient control of health care dollars is a good thing, regardless of the presence or absence of illness.

  10. John Goodman says:

    Response to Blake:

    You obviouly have not read my book,Patient Power. Do so. You will learn a lot.

    The percent of bankrupcies due to medical bills is 17%. not 80%.

  11. Larry C. says:

    Sounds like Aetna is looking out for Aetna, and could care less about the rest of us.

  12. Bret says:

    Larry, right on.