15 July 2020 Blog Post: Profiting From COVID-19

Today in the United States, 855 individuals died from COVID-19, 56147 are hospitalized, and there were 65106 newly reported cases.

Also, today in the United States, UnitedHealth Group (the parent company of our nation’s largest health insurer) reported a Q2 profit of $6.6 billion β€” double their earnings from the same period last year.

Let that sink in. The company whose mission statement is “to help people live healthier lives and make the health system work better for everyone” earned $6.6 billion in quarterly profit while 116000 Americans died in that same quarter.

There isn’t any other way to read this – when Americans die, UnitedHealth profits. When there is a pandemic that requires shelter-in-place orders, deferral of care and a pause in procedures, then they really profit.

What is really excruciating to read are the quotes from CEO David Wichmann (who was compensated $52 million in 2019).

“We currently expect care access patterns, while somewhat more volatile than in the past, to moderately exceed normal baselines in the second half [of the year], as people seek previously deferred care,” Wichmann said during a call with investors.

He went on: “It’s kind of hard to ignore the number of new diagnoses that dropped off,” he said. “It’s hard to ignore the drop-off in [care for] heart attacks, stroke. … It may be speculative here, but I think the data that we see suggests that there will be some intensity in services that people receive.”

It’s hard to ignore the number of new diagnoses that have dropped off? There is one new diagnosis that I’ve seen more of in my clinic – COVID-19. Yet, Mr. Wichmann operates as if coronavirus is just a quarterly hitch in his giddup. Rather than investing profits into treatment, research, testing, public health networks, technology, contact tracing, PPE or any of the other myriad of issues that need investment right now, UnitedHealth is focused on ‘some intensity’ occurring in the future.

What’s even scarier is that Optum, which is the UnitedHealth Group division for health care services, has become one of the nation’s largest operators of medical clinics in recent years. The trend has continued through the pandemic, executives said Wednesday, with 6,500 clinicians joining the company so far this year. Growth includes “several hundred new surgeons,” Wichmann said.

So the company that insures nearly 20% of all Americans, is increasing their market share to “care” for you as well in the middle of a pandemic. Buying clinics and clinicians under duress because of COVID-19. Placing profit before people, patients and providers.

If a company laughing all the way to the bank during a pandemic doesn’t prompt healthcare reform in this country, nothing will.

𝗦𝗢𝗴𝗻 𝗨𝗽 𝗳𝗼𝗿 π—’π˜‚π—Ώ π—‘π—²π˜„π˜€π—Ήπ—²π˜π˜π—²π—Ώ

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