HUNT BALLS: Jeremy finds his Trojan Horse in Simon Stevens

hunthorsetitleBe in no doubt: Simon Stevens is a wide-boy


In the least surprising move of the century so far, Health Secretary Hunt has hired a private health profiteer from the American insurance industry. Given the man’s track record, it is perhaps the most audacious statement of malign intent yet seen from the Conservative Zealot Tendency.

Although a Brit, new NHS boss Simon Stevens is a man steeped in the practices and ethics of the US health insurance sector. He is the global CEO of US market leader United Healthcare (UHC). Ergo, we are going down the insurance model route. Oh dear. With clinical consistency, Jeremy Hunt has chosen the worst of all options for the British health patient.

Mr Stevens was Tony Blair’s health adviser between 2001 and 2004, and before that adviser to health secretary Alan Milburn. That’s more ‘other offences to be taken into account’ than a track record, but Hunt welcomed the appointment of Mr Stevens, who he said had “an extraordinary reputation as a reformer”.

Perhaps you’d like to take a squint at Stevens in action at Youtube, and see what you make of the man.

What he’s saying in that clip represents the usual Thatcherite guff that yesterday’s Slog showed up clearly to be the overture to a Higher Education disaster. Unfortunately, what happens in the continuing neo-liberal soap opera is that the overture is simply an overclaim: what follows is ‘rip out the munneeeee’.

Stevens delivers the usual jargobollocks: patients are consumers, we need more choice, we need more transparency, better quality outcomes oooooooooooeuuuurggghugheee, that’s better. However, over and over in the interview, Simon comes back to one recurring theme: get more value by driving down costs.

This is thinly disguised Friedmanite code for “fire people, screw clinicians into the ground, and wriggle out of policy claims”. Which is exactly what the new NHS boss did during his meteoric rise at United Healthcare. Jeremy Taiping-Errah might see Simon as a class act reformer, but he seems to have spent most of his time facing class action law suits.

For instance, United finally reached a settlement in January 2009 over the long-running suit filed by the American Medical Association after it claimed UHC used faulty claims data to underpay doctors and overcharge patients. New York Attorney General Cuomo talked of “consumer fraud” for a decade – the one while Simon was at or near the top after 2004 – “clear conflicts of interest” and “underpayment of up to 28%” on claims.

in the settlement, UHC coughed up a third of a billion dollars in compensation to the defrauded claimants.

This is the man Hunt has chosen to lead the NHS.

But there’s plenty more to Simon’s track record than that.

In April 2011, UHC was the subject of another class action,  the original complaint alleging that the company ‘subjected providers to improper payment demands to return previously paid benefits by performing post payment audits to make retroactive adverse benefit determinations.’ United withheld payment from new claims payments for unrelated services to recoup the money in a practice referred to as “offsetting.” Lovely euphemisms, yer neo-liberals.

In May 2012, a class action was filed against United Healthcare in California for restricting mental health care. The class action lawsuit stated that UHC and its subsidiary UBH were in violation of the Mental Health Parity Act, which establishes that coverage for mental health care be the same as those set for physical health care. The companies supposedly denied and limited coverage by holding reviews of regular outpatient treatments for mental health, whereas a review for another type of regular outpatient medical care would not occur.  United was also accused of violating the Unruh Act, by treating policyholders with mental illness and psychiatric conditions unfairly, as well as breaching the terms of its own contract, and violating the state’s law against unfair competition.

In June 2013, UHC – in what was described as “a devastating move for the health and privacy of HIV/AIDS patients” –  illegally forced HIV sufferers to abandon their local pharmacies in favor of United’s own in-house mail-order service, according to a new statewide class action lawsuit brought by Consumer Watchdog and Whatley Kallas LLP.  As the result of a settlement in a similar lawsuit against Anthem Blue Cross, patients with HIV/AIDS may now opt-out of Anthem Blue Cross’s mail-order pharmacy programme. So then, rather more of the driving down costs, not so much of the ‘choice’ thang.

Two months earlier, the New York Psychiatric Association forced United into yet another appointment with the Beak, when it sued United for denying or curtailing mental health claims, refusal to reimburse E/M codes, continuing requirements for outpatient treatment reports, and the refusal to cover the new CPT codes.

This is the track record that Jeremy Hunt thinks adds up to an outstanding reformer – as opposed to a spiv. But then, Mr Hunt is himself a spiv, and obviously sees himself in a similar reforming light.

I could keep this up all day, because when you Google ‘uhc faces class action lawsuit’, 177,000 results come up. It is now abundantly clear – as The Slog has been saying since late 2010 – that Jeremy Hunt and his great grandma Baroness Bottomless-Pytte want private insurers to take over the NHS, and Simon Stevens is their chose Trojan Horse.

Putting a man like this in charge of the NHS is akin to giving Leon Brittan a children’s care home to run. Meanwhile, has a single Tory anywhere done any calculations at all about what percentage of UK could afford to have a ripoff ethic running through the successor to the NHS?

Insurers wriggle, they fire, they drive down costs, and they don’t GAF about quality, only dividends for the shareholders. I warn you all again – Left, Centre and Right – the Fallons, Goves and Hunts are fanatics who will not rest until every last decent institution in Britain has either been dismantled or sold off.

Can yer see whaddidizzyet?

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