What Health Care Crisis?

Tuesday, February 15th, 2005, 2:22 pm

One of the advantages of being a temp is that you get no paid sick time. That’s the only reason I can think of for me not getting the flu this year. I’ve gotten sick the past 3 winters, yet this year, when I can’t afford to miss any time, I’m in perfectly fine fettle. Last week we had a day where about 14 people in my office called off sick; yesterday our volleyball match was cancelled because the entire opposing team has the ague (and two members of my own team felt crummy). Me, I feel great.

In some way this proves that bringing market forces to bear on health care is a good idea. I can’t afford to get sick–therefore, I don’t get sick. Much in the same way that I can’t afford to buy a Lexus–therefore, I don’t get a Lexus. Econ 101 (remedial), I know, but I have more anectdotal evidence to back up my theory. A few weeks ago, when I thought I might be having a stroke, I went to the hospital because I’m covered under my wife’s insurance and I didn’t want to die. I still did a cost-benefit analysis, and came up with this: cough up the copay, or die. I chose door #1. Now, if I hadn’t had insurance, I might have thought about my problem this way: pay a ton to get what is probably a muscle spasm pooh-poohed over, or die. See how the balance of power has shifted? In this case the first option carries much more weight, and I probably would have stayed at my desk hoping and praying that I wasn’t, you know, about to die, and when the symptoms passed I would have felt great relief. Or, if the symptoms HAD been serious, I might’ve snuffed it right there in my cube and had no one realize that fact for several days. Since I sit sort of on my own and my cube has high walls. Maybe I should get a canary or something.

I like where I work, I think I do a good job, I’m always here to lend a helping hand wherever it’s needed. I’m a good employee. But if tomorrow they decide they don’t need me and show me the door, the company will endure. I don’t think, however, that the company will see a sudden leap in its stock price. I’m not that big a drag. Unlike former Hewltt-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who got canned last week. Now, losing your job is painful–I was abruptly laid off last year and it’s a shock. But it must really sting when you get fired–and your former employer’s market cap goes up SIX BILLION DOLLARS. Which is what happened when news of Fiorina’s sacking hit the news. That has got to be a bit of a blow to the ego, even to a alleged superstar like Carly. To think, you’re the head of this vast corporate entity, employing thousands of people, bringing in billions in revenue…and your mere presence is acting as a SIX BILLION DOLLAR DRAG on the market’s opinion of the firm.

So Fiorina came in, championed the highly controversial and not-too-successful Compaq merger, pissed off her board and most of her major investors, killed the stock price every day she showed up for work…and now she’s leaving with a $45 million compensation package. Now, of course this is outrageous–didn’t the market just tell us that Fiorina did a horrible job as CEO? Didn’t she cost HP investors literally billions of dollars during her reign? My question is this–had she simply resigned, shouldn’t HP have paid her, oh, like $250 million? Just as a thank you, for not crippling their stock any longer? They still would’ve been $5.75B ahead.

CEO and other executive compensation gets my blood boiling. Rubber-stamp Boards of Directors shoveling cash and options to so-called managerial geniuses who blunder through a few years then jump out of the metaphorical aircraft they set to spiraling just in time to open their golden parachutes is corruption, plain and simple. It gets me so mad I write unintelligible run-on sentences.

The Cult of the CEO reached its height in the 1990s but since the Internet bubble burst and the seemingly endless string of corporate scandals one had hopes the situation would improve. And perhaps it has. But handing out tens of millions of dollars to CEOs who steer companies into the rocks is galling. Even if HP stockholders are probably so glad to see her go they don’t mind paying for the privilege. And then there are the obscene and currently-under-litigation payments made by the NYSE to Richard Grasso and by Disney to Michael Ovitz, hundreds of millions of dollars forked over to executives who did not, under any rational justification, deserve so much as a smidge of those ludicrous sums. If there was any justice (well, if I was Imperial Overlord and could dispense such justice as I saw fit) then there would be quite a few people from Enron/WorldCom/Global Crossing/Tyco/Disney/NYSE spending many of their remaining days on this Earth eating prison chow.

Can you tell from the tone of this rant that I’m getting a tickle at the back of my throat?

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2 Responses to “What Health Care Crisis?”

  1. StudioGlyphic Says:

    Mean Gene for Imperial Overlord!

  2. StudioGlyphic Says:

    Do I get health care now?

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