By Bill Sorem
Minneapolis, MN, March 1, 2011. Stephen Helmsley’s luncheon speech at the University of Minnesota’s McNamara Alumni Center was interrupted by a group from TakeAction Minnesota. The group attempted to deliver a letter questioning the corporate health insurer on the $11 billion it is holding in reserves, they also called on UnitedHealth Group to provide full disclosure of its financial relationships with Minnesota’s public health care programs.
Visibly flustered, Hemsley, the CEO and President of UnitedHealth Group, was forced to abort his business speech and exit the stage for nearly five minutes until protesters were cleared from the building. Hemsley’s speech had been sponsored by the Carlson School of Business’s “First Tuesday” speaker series. About 450 people attended.
Although UnitedHealth Group is a for-profit insurer, HMOs such as Medica (who receive state taxpayer dollars to manage publicly health programs) are contracting out significant amounts of their state health program business to UnitedHealth Group — a corporation prohibited by law from operating HMOs in Minnesota.
Take Action Minnesota says Medica may be awarding no-bid contracts at great expense to the State of Minnesota. TakeAction Minnesota is asking that Hemsley, as well as Medica CEO David Tilford, disclose these contracts and cozy financial relationships so that public dollars can be spent directly on health care.
In 2009, Minnesota HMOs made over $100 million dollars in profits from our public health care programs. The CEOs and VPs of three HMOs (Blue Cross Blue Shield, Medica, and HealthPartners) pocketed a combined salary of over $16 million dollars.