Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wellmark Seeks Fraud Protection & Updates

July 25, 2007, 6:00, 7:00 a.m.

Wellmark Lobbies to Prevent Policy Holders' Protection from Fraud

The Register's four-day series on insurance abuses winds down today with another four stories and editorials -- one of which notes that, thanks to lobbying by Wellmark (along with others), Iowa remains the only state in the nation that forbids individual consumers to bring lawsuits under the Consumer Fraud Act. Check the Register's Online edition for all four.

Just in case you needed more persuasion than what's provided in the movie "Sicko" as to why America needs to get the overreaching, health-care-denying, profit-maximizing insurance industry out of health care so we can join the rest of the world with a universal, single-payer system -- well, here it is.

Johnson wouldn't think twice about taking on Zieser's case and others like it if Iowa had what's called a "private right of action."

Iowa doesn't.

It's the only state in the country that doesn't allow individual consumers to hire private attorneys and sue under the Consumer Fraud Act.

. . .

This anomaly in state law affects Iowans in a host of situations - if they believe they have been victimized by a door-to-door salesman, by a roofer who didn't complete the job, or, in the case of the Zieser family, by a long-term-care insurance company.

For seven years, the Iowa Attorney General's Office has proposed legislation to create a private right of action for certain consumer-fraud violations. Then Iowans would have the same legal recourse as residents in every other state. Last legislative session, Senate File 520 looked as if it might finally pass.

It didn't.

One only has to look at the "Lobbyist Declarations" on the legislation to see why. Powerful interests, including health insurer Wellmark Inc., Allied Insurance, Principal Financial Group and the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, registered "against."
Editorial, "Give wronged Iowans more legal punch; Every other state allows individuals to sue for consumer fraud," Des Moines Register, July 25, 2007.

These guys don't even want to take responsibility for the consequences of their own fraudulent practices! And they're willing to pay big money to legislators (not bribes, mind you, these are just "campaign contributions") and lobbyists to see to it that they don't have to. Never mind that in the process they make Iowans the shame, the laughing stock, and the least well protected consumers in the nation.

Hey, it's the great American way. Privatization, the marketplace, profit maximization -- "greed is good" is our mantra. So what's a little fraud along the way? Probably just a "bad apple" -- it's certainly not endemic to the system.

And if we can get our name associated with a prestigious College of Public Health, so much the better.

In other University-related news . . .

Cindy Hadish, "University Hospitals: Botched Discharge Probed; Patient Never Made it Back to Nursing Home," The Gazette, July 25, 2007, p. B1 ("State inspectors are reviewing procedures at University Hospitals . . .. [Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals] spokesperson David Werning said inspectors were asked to conduct the 'full-blown' survey at the request of the [federal] Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services . . .. A worst-case scenario, both Werning and hospital officials said, would be the hospital losing its Medicare certification.")

Although neither University administrators nor City Council members see enough wrong with the very profitable bar industry in Iowa City -- and its very impressive record of ever-increasing the community's national reputation for college students' binge drinking -- to actually do anything meaningful about it, a UI junior has just won an entrepreneural competition for a profit-making business plan to provide non-alcohol venues. Dave DeWitte, "Bar Alternatives Winner Seeks Financing," The Gazette, July 25, 2007, p. B8 ("I don't know how many times, sitting in a classroom, I've heard, 'If there was something else, I'd do it. But there's not, so I'm going to the bars.'")

Brian Stewart, "UI Police Gun Issue Comes to Fore Again," The Daily Iowan, July 25, 2007

"Regents Seek to Void Part of Union Contract; Board Claims Portion of Agreement Violates Federal Privacy Act," The Gazette, July 25, 2007, p. B3 (The union in question is an organization of graduate students, who work as teaching assistants and in other jobs at the University. For the union to function for a group that is so constantly changing in membership it obviously needs information that only the University has regarding graduate students' employment -- names and rates of pay. The union's contract provides that it's entitled to it. Now the Regents and University would like to renege on this provision. I know no more about this case than what's in the story, and I have not researched the law.)

Lisa Rossi, "Study questions universities' bid for 2-year grads; A sizable number of those with degrees from Iowa community colleges are heading out of state for their bachelor's degrees," Des Moines Register, July 25, 2007 ("Iowa community college enrollment has risen sharply in recent years. The Des Moines Register reported that a record 85,715 students were attending the state's 15 community colleges last fall, up 3 percent from the previous year and up 25 percent from five years ago." Bottom line: (1) Iowa's community colleges are a big, and usually under-reported, story -- 85,715 students! They represent a low cost alternative to providing freshman and sophomore education at high cost research universities. (2) A couple out-of-state schools are treating our community college transfers better than are our Regents' universities. For the system to work we have to get more competitive, integrated and accommodating.)

Brian Morelli, "Mason Following Naming Debate," Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 24, 2007, p. A1 (Morelli quotes Mason as saying she wants "what's best for [the University], the College of Public Health and the donors who are so important to our continued success" (emphasis supplied).)

Bob Elliott, "A Black Eye for UI State of Iowa,"
Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 24, 2007, p. A11 ("There are dangers attached to accepting enormous financial contributions from individuals such as Marvin Pomerantz, who may then believe they've earned the right to make suggestions as bizarre as firing a college dean because he embarrassed an insurance company").

Sam Osborne, "Naming Opportunities in the Private Sector," Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 24, 2007, p. A11 (an exploration of the possibilities of selling off the surface of his grandfather's tombstone for advertising).

Don Van Hulzen, "Some Questions for the University,"
Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 25, 2007, p. A11.

Huckabee Stories

Christopher Patton, "Huckabee Touts Health Plan; Former Republican Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee Describes His Idea on Preventive Health Care and Tax Reform at a North Liberty Event," The Daily Iowan, July 24, 2007, p. 1 (Patton quotes the Governor as saying, "You can have the best classrooms or teachers, but if kids are sitting there with stomach aches, headaches or toothaches, they can't learn").

Erin Jordan, "Don't mirror national polls, Huckabee urges; The Ames straw poll will lose its value if it becomes too predictable, he says," Des Moines Register, July 24, 2007 (Jordan quotes him as saying, "My time in the church world was the best preparation to later become a governor. There's not a social problem that exists in this country that doesn't have a name and a face").

James Q. Lynch, "Huckabee Encouraged by Commitment of Crowds,"
The Gazette, July 24, 2007, p. B2

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Scott A Olson said...

You state that Iowa is the only state in the country that doesn't allow individual consumers to hire private attorneys and sue under the Consumer Fraud Act.

You conclude, then, that we should have universal, single-payer healthcare.

Doesn't that sound like using a bazooka to try to kill a fly?

Wouldn't an easier solution for Iowa's woes be to change Iowa's laws to match the other 49 states and allow individual consumers to sue under the Consumer Fraud Act?

Anonymous said...

RE: Health Care

You are presenting a false choice that it's either; A) The Current System or B) a Single Payer system.

How about another way? How about a market system based with certain guaranteed preventitive services and allowing everyone to have a catastrophic care plan? Bring true market based cost controls into the system.

As I have stated before, when you remove the emotion of health care it is still an economic transaction, therefore still goverened by economic principles.

Anonymous said...

Re: Drinking in downtown Iowa City.

The Univ of Iowa brings in a few thousand teenage and early-20s students. The offerings then include left-over classes (after the athletes get their pick), and after hours a pathetic intermural sports program, no concerts, few fine-arts programs, few independent lectures, and a ton of alcohol in downtown Iowa City which brings with it increased revenue for the IC Police Dept. Great, and police records that haunt the fine graduates (after spending 5-7 years undergraduate because they cannot get into the classes that the athletes have clogged up in the first place) into their working career.

Just one aspect, the pathetic recreational program. Did I mention it is pathetic?

I had 2 sons who were active in high sports attend the Univ of Iowa. The incredible inter-mural basketball program offered them 5 games. That's right five games in a crappy venue. That was the entire recreational league in a sport designed to offer young men/women recreation over the winter. Five pathetic games.

This from a well-funded Big Ten school.

Let's see, 5 games over 3-4 months. Wonder what the young men do with the rest of their evenings when not studying. Wonder why obesity is a problem?

The first step here is to fire the administration of such a crappy rec program. The second step is to stop the diversion of tuition to D-1 programs that should support themselves, as they are businesses. Why support athletes who can't really become true college students anyway (and generally leave in 1-3 years)? The third step is to offer a real recreational program, that meets the actual needs of a major Big Ten university.

That is one aspect of the mess. There are few fine arts programs, concerts, and other venues of entertainment.

As such, the Univ of Iowa is a babysitting service that offers time for some maturity between high school and jobs, a line of revenue in tuition for profs and D-1 sports, and customers for the beer joints downtown.

Who can complain?

Anonymous said...

It is sad that Wellmark reigns as the most powerful force in Iowa and in Iowa Gov't.

Wellmark is so powerful, it sponsored the presidential aspirations of a governor; it controlled the Iowa Board of Regents so much that a univ president was run off; and it blocks reasonable legislation for Iowa citizens.

Is this situation any better than Huey Long in Louisiana? Or the penetration of corruption in Illinois?

It is very sad that citizens of Iowa let themselves be led like sheep to the trough of Wellmark politcal, financial, and educational control.

Anonymous said...

Re: Anonymous Comments on Drinking

UI has fine facilites for working out and playing sports. Who cares if they have intramural leagues? The Fieldhouse is open every day and has quality pickup games all the time. That is a red herring. The UI does offer a lot of other alternatives to drinking. Certainly, all the ones you mentioned. People like to party and drink. I did in my time there 20 years ago, people did 20 years before me, and people do now. Nothing has changed, just perceptions have changed.

2) No UI General Fund money pays for athletics. It does support itself.

3)Its not a babysitting service. How about your kid take some responsibility for himself?

I have four kids, and yes I favor them, but take off the blinders.

Anonymous said...

Barleycorn, you're wrong on both counts.

Sports were in fact designed as recreational activities long before organized into businesses. It is part of the development of young men and women to be involved in recreations (development of mind, body, and spirit).

Just because you were not interested in recreation doesn't mean the activites are usless; on the contrary they are part of the foundation of higher education (beer isn't).

Leagues are all part of recreation, and not just out of control, unsupervised random games at the Fieldhouse. That is morally and intellectually lazy.

You are also incorrect about athletics and the general fund. The Iowa AD now draws down on the general fun, and has for some years now, to finance D-1 athletics.

If the university is charging for their services, the repsonsibility is not just the kids (another intellectualyl lazy answer)

Anonymous said...


Get the facts correct...

NO: UI Athletics does not take general fund money. From the CR Gazette 07/21/07:

"Iowa doesn't figure in the ``need'' category. As of July 1, Iowa's athletics department is 100 percent self-sustaining. Combining fiscal 2005 and 2006, Iowa generated more than $21 million in surplus funding, which was placed in its athletic reserve. Most of that is directed toward debt service for the $90 million Kinnick Stadium renovation."

When I was a liberal arts student in the 80's we had to take 4 hours of PE as a requirement. They have eliminated that now. That is more important than intramurals that only a small % of students participated in. I would agree that too little is spent on the mind/body relationship in education. That starts at the earliest levels and extends through bachelor degree level higher education. But, intramurals? The Field House or Dodge Street Park games were not out of control generally. They were great workouts.

I have no problem keeping the PE requirement and even making it more prominant, but intramural leagues are not a big deal and not needed to stay in shape.

Come on.

Anonymous said...

Again, how far off could you be on the AD and the tuition issue. A couple million ways off. :-) This is a myth that needs to be stopped now.

The Iowa AD draws down from the U of Iowa general fund. How much?

for 2007: 870,000 goes to the AD from the general fund.

How about prior years? Here are a few:
2004: 2.2 million
2005: 1.9 million
2006: 1.65 million

These are facts and easily checked out. Here is a quote direct from the U of Iowa report:
"In FY 2004, General Education Fund support for Athletics operations was approximately $2.2 million"

The data are clear and not hidden.

Student tuition through the U of Iowa general fund goes to the AD.


Anonymous said...

Do you understand linear time?

You are quoting me data from 2004, I am quoting you new data. Again the article states " AS OF JUNE 1, 2007 Iowa's athletics are 100% self sustaining". Iowa no longer has to use general fund support for athletics. I-Club members like me stepped up.


Anonymous said...

You are both correct in what you are saying. The data North Liberty is quoting is for fiscal years, so the $870,000 is for FY '07 from July 1, 2006-June 30, 2007. The quote for no contribution from the general fund is what is coming for FY '08 which started July 1, 2007. Increased giving, revenue derived from the conference/broadcast rights/advertising and ticket sales have allowed the athletic department to become self sustaining without the general fund contributions. Now would you care to debate the propriety of an "independent" athletic department and what its standing becomes to the University when all funding sources do not come from the University directly (other than trading on the name of the institution.)

Anonymous said...


You stumbled on a fiscal year in which the AD says it will not draw down on the general fund. Bravo. However, in the past the AD drew down millions of the student's tuition money. So the point is valid, yes the Iowa AD took tuition money.

And yes I am quite aware of 'linear time' which BTW is redundant.

A major issue here, now that we established that the AD did (does) take tuition money, is why? Football and basketball usually support themselves. The other sports don't.

Is it fair for the students to support non-self-sustaining minor sports?

Anonymous said...

Again, if you bothered to read the article, or know anything about the situation, you would know that the recent upgrade of Kinnick and increase in ticket prices and donor levels is what makes UI Athletics self sustaining. So yes, women's sports and men's minor sports will now be paid for by football and basketball totally.

Sure, they took some general fund dollars in the past, but thats kind of a moot point now. They wont be anymore.

Anonymous said...

Of course the AD's budget isn't a moot point now.

However, it is useless to discuss something with someone who constantly throws out insults, and is always right. That is a really moot point.

Anonymous said...

I generally only comment on issues I know something about. It's a good policy.