AARP’s Captive and Historically Secretive Relationship with UnitedHealth Group Now Out of The Bag

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Medical Supplies. Photo by darkday/Flickr.

Medical Supplies. Photo by darkday/Flickr.

Many doctors are blacklisted and now deemed personae non gratae.

Since I revealed the covert relationship between AARP and UnitedHealth Group in my article on 16 October 2012, the duo has now proudly and publicly announced their badly kept secret. Who AARP really is and what drives UnitedHealth Group is a dirty story the public needs to know.

Santa Fe, New Mexico, 20 April 2015

By Dr. James Goldberg, Author of The American Medical Money Machine: The Destruction of Healthcare in America and the Rise of Medical Tourism

Such a cozy relationship.

Check this out: it is taken directly from a UnitedHealth Group corporate release dated October 15, 2013. UnitedHealth Group To Extend, Broaden Its Relationship With AARP To Focus More Than Ever On Improving Americans’ Health And Well-Being.

Their PR lists these key points up front:

  • AARP and UnitedHealth Group have reached an agreement in principle to extend exclusive agreement through which the parties expand the relationship that began in 1997 and has helped support the health and wellness needs of millions of AARP members
  • New AARP relationship with Optum Labs will help drive far-reaching research into consumer health innovation
  • The extended agreement, which is expected to run through December 2020, will enable UnitedHealth Group to serve AARP’s 37 million members by drawing upon the ever-expanding capabilities across its businesses, including UnitedHealthcare in health benefits and Optum in health services.

So AARP derives over 80 percent of its revenue from commissions/royalties from the sale of UnitedHealthcare Group products. This cozy relationship by these fascinating bed mates is being litigated in Texas—in a class action suit, no less—by Dr. John Milton Peacock and Robbie Cowan. The plaintiffs have alleged that AARP has committed insurance fraud.

The stink does not stop!

Have a look at this little bit of news as posted by Linda Bentley on January 8, 2014 in the Sonoran News (emphasis mine). “Calling the commission a ‘royalty’ is merely a fiction created by defendants to further their illegal scheme.”

The plaintiffs, on behalf of a class of senior citizens and disabled individuals residing in Texas, are seeking to recoup millions of dollars, alleging they were fooled by deceptive practices and unlawful acts into paying artificially inflated insurance charges for Medicare supplemental health insurance policies so the defendants could use the inflated portion of the payment for the payment of insurance commissions to an unlicensed entity.

According to the complaint, defendants, together and through their respective subsidiaries, “have orchestrated an elaborate scheme where AARP, as the de facto agent of UnitedHealth, helps market, solicit, sell, and/or renew ‘AARP-branded’ Medicare supplement health insurance policies (‘AARP Medigap’) on behalf of UnitedHealth, and also collects and remits insurance premiums and generally administers the AARP Medigap program for UnitedHealth, in exchange for a 4.95 percent commission from each new policy or renewal.”

Although UnitedHealthcare/AARP has never made more money while simultaneously paying out less in benefits, they have the audacity to want even more money from the taxpayer. The headline of this ThinkPiece article nearly says it all: After Making $2 Billion In Profits, Insurer Complains It Doesn’t Get Enough Government Money.

Adding insult to injury.

UnitedHealth Group is now blacklisting doctors and eliminating thousands of doctors from United provider networks. This little tome comes from the Washington Post, Doctors cut from Medicare Advantage networks struggle with what to tell patients.

Thousands of primary-care doctors and specialists across the country have been terminated from privately run Medicare Advantage plans, sparking a battle between doctors who say patient care is being threatened and insurers that insist they have to reduce costs and streamline their operations.

Please be reminded that while they are enjoying record profits they want more money from the government, higher premiums and bigger deductibles and co-pays they are also claiming that it is necessary to cut back on the number of doctors who are in their network! You can’t make this up. No Hollywood writers could conceive of this fiction yet, it is our daily reality.

Note: There were four healthcare lobbyists in Washington for every Senator and Congressmen paying off our law makers while Obamacare was being debated. Now, the public gets to enjoy the stupidity of Nancy Pelosi who opined: Let’s pass the bill so we can find out what’s in it!

Apparently it’s time to pull some more teeth by decreasing the number of providers, making access to medical care more difficult and time consuming and by asking for more subsidies from the tax payers (hey, it worked for Wall Street). More physician outrage from the Post article:

Arthur Vogelman, a gastroenterologist, received a letter in the fall from United Healthcare informing him that he had been dropped from the insurer’s physician network. He said the letter contained no information about the reason for the termination. He appealed to the company and documented his successful treatment of thousands of patients, but his request was denied with no reason given.

“It is an outrage. I have patients in their 80s and 90s who have been with me 20 years, and I’m having to tell them that their insurer won’t pay for them to see me anymore. The worst thing is I can’t even tell them why,” Vogelman said.

“The way this was handled was completely wrong,” said Patricia McLaughlin, an ophthalmologist in Manhattan. She discovered that she had been cut from one plan’s network when she was searching for doctors online for her own family and noticed that she was no longer in the company’s provider database.

To the victor belong the spoils.

Let’s be clear about the UnitedHealth Group/AARP motive: Money! Lots of it! They bought the legislation, now they want the spoils. By eliminating doctors from their network, UnitedHealth Group can and does select the least expensive providers to continue as UnitedHealth Group providers (aka “doctors”). The elimination of doctors from their networks allows them to increase their profits by reducing the amount of benefits which they pay. Deductibles and co-pays are laid off on patients and the unholy alliance of UnitedHealth Group/AARP profit at the expense of the doctors and patients while cloaking their moves in the guise of cost saving.

Don’t be fooled. The indiscriminate disenfranchisement of doctors from their networks reduces access for patient care, decreases the payment of benefits and increases the amounts of money UnitedHealth Group and AARP are able to pocket at the expense of the public. This is a widely unappreciated aspect of the underbelly of the Affordable Care Act.

Despite numerous and criminal SEC violations by United executives no one from UnitedHealth has gone to jail. Instead, when they are caught they are fined and still walk away with billions.

Is this the America we want?