Are health insurance companies about to get the same government scrutiny of meetings, travel, and entertainment practices that has until now been aimed at financial services companies receiving Troubled Asset Relief Program funds?
The latest government inquiry into Corporate America’s business practices, including spending on meetings, incentives, travel, and entertainment, is coming from Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight. They have sent a joint letter to about 50 insurers asking for information about their executive compensation practices.
In addition, the letter includes a request that the insurers provide information on “all conferences, retreats, or other events held outside company facilities from January 1, 2007 to the present that were paid for, reimbursed, or subsidized in whole or in part by your company, as well as the purpose of such events and documents sufficient to show the location, number of participants, and all expenses incurred, including lodging, food, entertainment, or gifts.”
The information is due to the committees by September 4 and is to include information from every unit, division, affiliate, or subsidiary controlled or owned by the insurer.
In an article in The Washington Post last week, Robert Zirkelback, a spokesperson for America’s Health Insurance Plans, an industry association, called the Waxman/Stupak letter a “fishing expedition” designed to shift the focus of healthcare reform debate “to the health insurance industry rather than solutions on healthcare.”