Three of the biggest health insurers have announced quarterly earnings in the past few days. If Americans were able to eavesdrop on what executives from those firms tell their Wall Street masters every three months, they would have a better understanding of why premiums keep going up while the number of people with medical coverage keeps going down.
It only takes three words, when you get right down to it, to describe the real of those folks: profits over people.
CIGNA and Humana are scheduled to report earnings this week. The three companies that have already spoken -- UnitedHealth, WellPoint and Aetna -- earned a combined $2.51 billion from April through the end of June, more than analysts expected. On a per share basis, their earnings were up more than 17 percent on average compared with the second quarter of 2010.
Pharmaceutical companies are carrying out fake, pseudo-studies on humans as a marketing devices to get doctors familiar with new drugs. In such studies, called "seeding trials," drug companies invite hundreds of doctors to take part in a research study by asking them to recruit patients to serve as subjects. The companies then pay the doctors for every subject they recruit. These "studies" look like clinical trials, but are not designed to contribute to knowledge in any way. Their purpose is solely to make doctors more familiar with the new drugs being "tested," and make doctors more likely to prescribe the drugs in the future. Seeding trials are conducted privately and managed by the pharmaceutical companies' marketing departments, not their research departments. The results of such trials do not appear in medical journals, but in pharmaceutical marketing documents. The drugs in such tests already have FDA approval, but the investigators may be inexperience and untrained, and patients involved in such fake studies have even died. How do these studies avoid scrutiny by ethics boards? Institutional review boards (IRBs), which determine whether human studies are ethically sound, don't pass judgement on whether a study is being carried out simply as a marketing tool or not. Some IRBs are even run as for-profit businesses, and get paid by the same pharmaceutical companies that put on the studies. If a for-profit IRB fails to approve too many studies, the entities funding such studies will just go elsewhere for reviews.
(Editor's note: The Center is deeply grateful for all the research into ALEC politicians underway, especially by Daily KOS bloggers, and we are offering the tips today in light of the many questions people have asked about how to help with this research.) The Center for Media and Democracy recently unveiled a trove of "model" bills voted on behind closed doors by corporations and politicians through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Many of these bills and provisions have been introduced in state houses across the country without any mention of the ALEC connection and have become legally binding. In addition to the analysis of the more than 800 pieces legislation on "ALECexposed," CMD released a list of lawmakers from across the U.S. who serve as ALEC "Chairmen" in each state.
The Murdochs have retained Edelman Public Relations to help them deal with the growing cell phone hacking, corruption and bribery scandals unfolding in Britain. Since hiring Edelman, the Murdochs have apologized to their companys' hacking victims, and Rupert Murdoch used the word "humble" in his appearance before the U.K. Parliament. But the Murdochs also said that they didn't do anything wrong, didn't know that anyone else who worked for their companies was doing anything wrong, and that they bear no responsibility for anything that happened. In his testimony before Parliament, James Murdoch told the Parliament's Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee that he was "as surprised as you are" to find out that his family company, News International, paid the legal fees for Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator at the center of the hacking scandal. In 2007, Mulcaire was convicted of a felony and sentenced to six months in jail for hacking into the phones of royal officials. James also claimed hge was unaware that his company paid the legal fees of Clive Goodman, a News of the World reporter who was sentenced to four months in jail.
The insurance industry made it abundantly clear this week that it is in the driver's seat -- in both Washington and state capitols -- of one of the most important vehicles created by Congress to reform the U.S. health care system.
The Affordable Care Act requires the states to create new marketplaces -- "exchanges" -- where individuals and small businesses can shop for health insurance. In the 15 months since the law took effect, insurers have lobbied the Obama administration relentlessly to give states the broadest possible latitude in setting up their exchanges. And those insurance companies have been equally relentless at the state level in making sure governors and legislators follow their orders in determining how the exchanges will be operated.
Just weeks ago, media mogul Rupert Murdoch was set to win his $12 billion bid to take over Britain's biggest satellite broadcaster, BSkyB. The U.K. government was indicating it was likely to allow the proposed takeover to happen. But then the News of the World phone hacking and bribery scandal broke, and turned British public opinion so strongly against Murdoch that he suddenly withdrew his multi billion dollar offer to take over the broadcaster. Murdoch's announcement that he was pulling the bid came just hours before British lawmakers were set to consider a measure to ask Murdoch's company, News Corp. to drop his effort to take over BSkyB. The measure was expected to pass with overwhelming support in Britain's House of Commons, demonstrating how sharply Murdoch's influence has waned since the scandal. Murdoch had previously wielded significant political influence in Britain through his media holdings. The scandal may be affecting Murdoch's influence in the U.S., too. U.S. Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia), Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) have all called for an inquiry into whether any of the unethical investigative techniques or bribery uncovered at Murdoch's U.K. newspaper have been used at any of his U.S. media holdings. The senators specifically question whether telephones of victims of the September 11, 2011 attacks might have also been hacked. News Corp. holds 27 U.S. broadcast licenses and owns the Fox News Channel.
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch moved quickly to shut down one of his oldest media holdings -- a 168 year-old, best-selling weekly British tabloid newspaper called News of the World -- amid charges that the paper's journalists hacked into the telephones of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, murder victims and their families, and bribed police in exchange for information and tips. News of the World was Britain's best-selling Sunday newspaper. Its last issue will be this Sunday, and will not carry any commercial advertisements.
Murdoch dumped the paper at the same time his media empire, News Corp., is trying to win U.K. government approval to take over British Sky Broadcasting Group. News Corp bid US$12.5 billion for the British Sky Broadcasting, but the government has received more than 135,000 comments protesting the acquisition.
On behalf of Grigor and Hilda Sarkisyan, I would like to invite Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia to attend the 21st birthday celebration of the Sarkisyans' only daughter, Nataline, this coming Saturday, July 9, in Calabasas, California.
Gingrey could consider it a legitimate, reimbursable fact-finding mission. He clearly needs to have more facts about the U.S. health care system before he starts talking about death panels again.
Gingrey seems determined to keep alive the lie that the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a., Obamacare) will create government-run death panels in the Medicare program.
Sarah Palin started the death panel fabrication when she claimed during the health care reform debate that a proposal to allow Medicare to reimburse doctors for talking to their patients about advance directives would be tantamount to establishing death panels deep in the federal bureaucracy. So many people believed her lie that Democrats felt they had no choice but to strip that provision from the final bill.
Internal emails obtained by the UK Guardian show that British government officials colluded with nuclear power companies in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster to develop a PR strategy to downplay the severity of the event. Emails show the British government initiated contact with the nuclear industry about the debacle just two days after the earthquake and tsunami hit, and well before anyone knew the full extent of the disaster. The emails show close collusion between the power companies Westinghouse, EDF Energy, Areva and the UK government's Office of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to try to ensure that the disaster in Japan wouldn't interrupt plans to build new nuclear power plants in Great Britain. In one email, an official in the BIS department expressed concern that the Fukushima disaster had "the potential to set the nuclear industry back globally," and wrote "We need to ensure the anti-nuclear chaps and chapesses do not gain ground on this. We need to occupy the territory and hold it. We really need to show the safety of nuclear." The business department argued that Fukushima was "not as bad as the 'dramatic' TV pictures made it look." An official, whose name has been blacked out, told Areva "We need to quash any stories trying to compare this to Chernobyl." You can read all 136 pages of the emails here.