A Shrill Health Insurance Chief Goes in for the Kill

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

UnitedHealth CEO David Wichmann doesn’t much like all the talk going around these days about “Medicare for All.” In comments to stock analysts earlier this month, Wichmann intoned that proposals for Medicare for All would, if enacted, “destabilize the nation’s health system” and “surely have a severe impact on the economy and jobs.” He’ll likely prove right about the severity of that impact on his job. Medicare for All proposals introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal envision absolutely no role for private insurance execs who take home $83.2 million a year, Wichmann’s 2017 realized compensation. Share prices at UnitedHealth have nosedived since Sanders introduced his latest Medicare for All bill, as have shares at other big insurers. Their gravy train is clearly slowing. But what lush gravy that train has carried! Over the last decade, a business group has reported, average executive pay at leading U.S. health insurers has been growing at an annual 13 percent rate.

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Sam Pizzigati edits Too Much, the online weekly on excess and inequality. He is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. Last year, he played an active role on the team that generated The Nation magazine special issue on extreme inequality. That issue recently won the 2009 Hillman Prize for magazine journalism. Pizzigati’s latest book, Greed and Good: Understanding and Overcoming the Inequality that Limits Our Lives (Apex Press, 2004), won an “outstanding title” of the year ranking from the American Library Association’s Choice book review journal.

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