Several GOP senators are questioning Obamacare officials and a top insurer and Obamacare contractor over intricate ties between the country’s largest insurance company and the health care law’s roll-out, warning that serious conflicts of interest may exist.
Health insurance companies have long been castigated by Obamacare supporters, who sold the health care law as the solution to insurers that supposedly took advantage of patients. But UnitedHealthcare, one of the largest insurers in the country, and its data-collecting subsidiary, Optum-QSSI, have received some of the biggest benefits from Obamacare and are now working with the Obama administration to implement it.
A large rush of customers required to purchase health insurance will boost insurer UnitedHealthcare’s profits, but meanwhile, the company’s subsidiary Optum/QSSI is one of the prime contractors working on HealthCare.gov for Obamacare agency the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
“Optum/QSSI will have access to a significant amount of data regarding highly sensitive aspects of FFE operations, including payment calculation for reinsurance, risk adjustment and risk corridors, and the required data collection to support these services,” Republican Senators Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley wrote to CMS chief Marilyn Tavenner. ”It is our understanding that several key personnel have recently transitioned from executive level positions at UnitedHealthcare to executive level positions at Optum/QSSI, and vice versa. We would like to ensure that all potential conflicts of interest were mitigated.”
UnitedHealthcare is not only one of the largest insurers in the country, but is participating in ten states’ Obamacare exchanges, making it directly affected by the health care law’s risk mitigation provisions.
Insurance companies are expected to win big as a result of the risk programs, which experts are saying will likely turn into an insurer bailout. While the provisions were intended to redistribute profits amongst Obamacare insurers, CMS officials have opened up the possibility of instating a new tax on health care plans in order to collect taxpayer funding to send to insurers.
An additional tax, like all the other fees placed on health plans under Obamacare, will almost assuredly be passed onto consumers.
A top insurance company’s subsidiary having a role advising the federal government on what could amount to a windfall for its parent company could create a serious conflict of interest, according to Hatch and Grassley.
If anything, UnitedHealthcare and Optum/QSSI may be getting even more entangled with the Obama administration. Bloomberg reported Friday that Andy Slavitt, vice president of QSSI, will become a top official at CMS, overseeing Obamacare implementation.
Hatch and Grassley are seeking documents about potential conflicts of interest and are asking CMS for its plan to ensure that Optum/QSSI doesn’t transfer federal information to its parent company, especially in the case that UnitedHealthcare opts to expand into more Obamacare exchanges.