United Health – “Too Big to Fail?”

I’m going to continue to work to bust this up,” Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) told UnitedHealth Group CEO Andrew Witty at a Wednesday hearing on Capitol Hill.

As Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) recently said, “UnitedHealth Group is the Standard Oil of Healthcare.”  It has bought virtually every aspect of the healthcare system. In January 2021, it bought one of the biggest health payment systems, Change Healthcare, for $13 billion. In February, it was hit by a cyberattack that exposed millions of personal patient records and delayed reimbursements for doctors, hospitals, and independent pharmacies.

So, on Wednesday, the House and Senate held hearings on these failures of UnitedHealth Group (UHG) with the company’s CEO Andrew Witty.

From Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) to Payday Loans to AARP, a “Health Care Leviathan”

House Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) examined UHG’s consolidation and size: “Under the United Health Group umbrella resides a health insurance company with more than 40 million covered lives across Medicare, Medicaid, and commercial markets. A PBM that managed $159 billion in drug spending as a provider group that owns roughly one in every 12 doctors in the United States, a bank that makes payday loans to providers. That’s just a few of the vendors under your purview.”

They even have a billion-dollar partnership with AARP. Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-AZ) asked about UHG’s financial arrangement with AARP, “Does, I have gotten letters on this, this is why I’m asking it. Does AARP get a paid percentage on your trained to UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage Plan?  Do they get a cut of it?” Witty said he didn’t have the details on his company’s financial arrangement with AARP, despite public records that show UnitedHealth has paid billions to AARP.

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, who helped pass Obamacare which is responsible for UHG’s giant growth, also blasted UHG: “I’ll put things in perspective. Last year, UHG generated $324 billion in revenue, making it the 5th largest company in the U.S. Overall, the company touches 152 million individuals across all lines of business – insurance, physician practice, home health, and pharmacy. With its profits, UHG has purchased dozens of other health care companies and is the largest purchaser of physician practices. This corporation is a health care leviathan.”

Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana asked,“Is the dominant role of United too dominant because it is into everything, and messing up United messes up everybody?” He added, “My point is, the size of United becomes… almost a too big to fail, and sure, because if it fails, it’s going to bring down far more than it ordinarily would.”

“Maybe a Third” of Americans Are Affected by the Breach

Witty testified on Wednesday that “maybe a third” of Americans’ personal information and health data was stolen in the attack. He said the hack was caused by a lack of multifactor authentication on its servers.

Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming said, “Hospitals take cybersecurity very seriously. You know, Change Healthcare’s commitment to cybersecurity it’s not as clear.”

Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina held up a copy of the book Hacking for Dummies and said, “This is some basic stuff that was missed.”

“It’s Like You All Can’t Figure This Out” 

Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn said her office has been bombarded with calls from hospitals, pharmacies, and doctors hit by UnitedHealth cyberattack.  “There is a backlog that many of our providers and hospitals have from nine weeks of not being able to get in and make these claims,” she said.

“Every day they call to get an update. Every single day they’re calling. And they get the runaround every single day, repeatedly,” she said. “It’s like you all can’t figure this out.”

“A small, independent, private hospital in West Tennessee. They have diligently submitted all of their claims, and they are burdened with a backlog of Medicare claims that is equivalent to 30 days revenue, and they’re waiting for these things to be transmitted to Medicare,” Blackburn said. “This is all because of the missteps you all have had.”

Increased Consolidation, Higher Prices, Less Access for Patients

Rep. John Joyce of Pennsylvania said, “As we see increased consolidation in healthcare, I worry that incidents such as this will become increasingly more common. We have already seen consolidation drive up prices and decrease access to patient care. And now patients and physicians are encountering yet another cost.”

Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter of Georgia slammed UnitedHealth, which has gobbled up physician practices, surgery centers, pharmacy benefit managers, and more, saying: “You are the largest for-profit domestic health insurance company in the country as has been pointed out with over 10,000 physicians and owning your own pharmacy and one of the of the largest PBMs in the country. Can you explain how your company can justify these clear conflicts of interest?”

“Are you aware that there are over 300 pharmacies, independent retail pharmacies that went out of business last year?” Carter asked Witty.

“Let me assure you that I’m going to continue to work to bust this up,” Carter said. “This vertical integration that exists in health care in general has got to end.”

Rick Manning is the President of Americans for Limited Government.

To view online: https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2024/05/02/too-big-to-fail-congress-grills-unitedhealth-ceo-over-companys-vertically-integrated-consolidation-and-massive-cyberattack/

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