MINNEAPOLIS (March 1, 2011) – Interrupting his luncheon speech at the University of Minnesota’s McNamara Alumni Center last week, protesters organized by TakeAction Minnesota took to the stage to deliver a letter, and a message to UnitedHealth Group CEO and President Stephen Hemsley.
Questioning the corporate health insurer on the $11 billion it is holding in reserves, the organization called on UnitedHealth Group to provide full disclosure of its financial relationships with Minnesota’s public health care programs.
Visibly flustered, Hemsley, the CEO and President of UnitedHealth Group, was forced to abort his business speech and exit the stage for nearly five minutes until protesters were cleared from the building. Hemsley’s speech had been sponsored by the Carlson School of Business’s “First Tuesday” speaker series.
Although UnitedHealth Group is a for-profit insurer, HMOs such as Medica, that receive state taxpayer dollars to manage publicly health programs, are contracting out significant amounts of their state health program business to UnitedHealth Group – a corporation prohibited by law from operating HMOs in Minnesota.
HMOs such as Medica may also be offering no-bid contracts at great expense to the State of Minnesota. TakeAction Minnesota is asking that Hemsley, as well as Medica CEO David Tilford, disclose these contracts and cozy financial relationships so that public dollars can be spent directly on health care.
Elizabeth Lienesch, a health care organizer for TakeAction Minnesota said “what we really want is a system where our public dollars go directly to health care. Right now, HMOs and corporate insurers like UnitedHealth Group and Medica are making end runs around the system for their own financial gain. At the same time, we’ve got a $5 billion dollar budget deficit and health care is being slashed to the bone. It’s wrong and it needs to change.”
As the protesters took to the stage, TakeAction Minnesota also distributed pink fliers to the over 450 attendees of the sold-out luncheon. The fliers featured a copy of the letter sent to Hemsley, as well as information about the $11 billion in reserves UnitedHealth Group maintains at the expense of spending it on health care.
For information about TakeAction Minnesota’s “Together for Health” campaign to remove HMOs from public health programs, visit www.TakeActionMinnesota.org/together_for_health_campaign.