Friday, December 15, 2006

The WellPoint Connection: Bayh, Bush, Hubbard

Last week Presidential hopeful Senator Evan Bayh-D, Indiana encouraged his party not to become “ideological” in its pursuit of new policies for America. With recent feedback from the electorate via mid-term elections and a recent poll on healthcare, I decided to dive into Senator Bayh’s “practical vs. ideological” concerns.

88% of Americans support employers expanding health coverage
61% support the government providing coverage to all people

Evan’s website clearly states his healthcare position. “Everyone should have access to quality, affordable health insurance, and I will continue fighting to make this goal a reality”. Senator Bayh skipped access to high quality, affordable health care and jumped straight to the financing mechanism. Conspicuously absent is any mention of health care provider’s burden of caring for the uninsured, however he clearly states the burden on small employers in providing insurance.

Yesterday, the news reported on a “Universal Coverage” Plan proposed by Senator Ron Wyden-D, Oregon. A prominent feature is the shifting of responsibility for health insurance to the individual. All citizens would have to buy insurance through private plans.

In researching the evolution of U.S. health policy and its turn toward favoring private insurers, I ran across a strong WellPoint connection. Al Hubbard, President Bush’s chief economic advisor served on the board of WellPoint before his appointment. President Bush’s Uncle Bucky still provides governance to the company alongside Susan Bayh, the wife of the aforementioned Senator Evan Bayh. While no bios indicate the connection, two pictures do. Is this the same lady as that?

How might Susan Bayh’s board position at WellPoint influence her husband’s healthcare stands? According to SEC documents, Mrs. Bayh received $82,352 and 3,780 shares of stock for her board service in 2005. That is nearly half of her husband’s annual salary for serving in the Senate. However, in addition board members receive stock option grants which may be exercised for a profit.

Susan exercised her options for a profit of $400,000 in December 2004 and nearly $800,000 in February 2006. Stacking almost $1.2 million in investment returns on top of the annual board compensation, WellPoint is a major contributor to the Bayh’s household finances.

While Al Hubbard, Susan Bayh and William H.T. (Bucky) Bush aren’t holding hands in any picture, it is interesting to note 3 Washington insiders by position or family relationship on one corporate board.

Like all good Washington servants, Al had to unload his allegiances to WellPoint and his stock in order to serve the greater good. The White House press release on Al’s appointment is dated January 10, 2005. Mr. Hubbard exercised his WellPoint stock option grants on February 14, 2005 netting $1 million. Mr. Hubbard also served on the board of MSI, Medical Savings Insurance Company which specializes in the President’s lead health care strategy, health savings accounts. Of course none of this impacts Al’s ability to serve all of the American people.

We are back to the old chicken and the egg question. Do these folks serve to advocate their beliefs or benefit themselves financially? How does a plan that allows for both employers and the government to back even further away from health care meet the needs of 60-88% of Americans?

As for a leading Democrat sounding like a conservative Republican on healthcare, does Bayh’s Buy explain Bayh’s Bye?

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