Today I planned on having a nice, productive day working on things at home, such as my No Plan Meal Plan, among other things.  But I’m finding myself rather distracted by the news, which I saw in an editorial in today’s Plain Dealer, about the UnitedHealth CEO making serious bank.  More money than any other CEO in the US – $101MM to be exact, although not including stock, of course.  That would make it a whole lot more.  Even so, Stephen Hemsley from UnitedHealth beat out CEOs from big oil, tech firms, and even the CEO at Walt Disney.

That’s right, Stephen Hemsley tops the list of America’s highest paid CEOs of 2011 .  

Meanwhile the cost of your and your family’s health care plan has more than doubled since 2001.  An individual plan now costs nearly $10,000.  And pretty soon, your employer is going to get sick  (pun intended) of paying for it.  If they haven’t already, they’re going to start transferring those costs to you – the Reuter’s report (linked above) cites a shift of 12% next year. 

Who is to blame for the rising costs might just be the biggest blame game around right now.  Insurance companies blame rising health care costs and a sicker population.  Doctors blame law suits.  Some blame health care reform (which, btw, is estimated to account for a relatively small 2-3% of the 15% rise in premium rates this year).  And so on.

Almost everyone has a legitimate point to be made.  But it’s VERY hard for me to feel that sorry for health insurance companies when they’re booking record profits and paying their CEOs such enormous wages. 

At the same time, I really shouldn’t be that surprised.  UnitedHealth is a for-profit company.  It exists to make money, therefore leadership is paid to figure out how to make the most money possible.  How to insurance companies make money?  By maximizing revenue – charging as much as possible for their services (insurance in this case) – and minimizing their costs (i.e. paying claims).  It’s built into their incentive structure to raise rates, and skimp on coverage.  I have an economics degree, but it doesn’t take an economist to understand that individuals, and companies, act in line with their incentives.  The more profit Stephen makes his company and his shareholders, the bigger his yacht. 

I could go on, discussing my thoughts on the economics at hand here, and what I think are viable solutions.  But I don’t want to.  I really just wanted to throw the above facts out there.  It’s maddening, and as a society we need to decide how to fix it.

In the mean time, it’s in your best interest to “avoid” the need for health care.  Preventative medicine, so to speak.  Eat well (and by “well” I DO NOT mean low-fat, low-carb, lean meats only, or any of that nonsense) and move your body.  80% of what people are experiencing these days in terms of illness and health care costs are completely preventable.  We’re in a really sad state in the US at the moment – we’re so sick that we think being sick is normal.  It’s not.  You can be healthy and vibrant and running marathons into your 80s and above.