5 points of advice for CareFirst's Bill Jews

This Just In...

March 13, 2002|By DAN RODRICKS

A LITTLE advice for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield CEO Bill Jews as he heads into this morning's hearing before the state insurance commissioner on CareFirst's plan to convert to a for-profit company so that it might be sold to WellPoint Health for $1.3 billion:

1. Don't take the Fifth, as Ken Lay did in the congressional hearings on Enron. That would be a little over-the-top at this point. Testify. As Strom Thurmond says: "Speak right into the machine."

2. Keep your cool. You don't want to get caught on tape saying: "Guys! If you divide the $33.2 million in bonuses for 74 of our managers, it's only, like, $450,000 each!"

3. Don't let tawdry accusations of greed keep you from speaking up for yourself: "Bill Jews made CareFirst what it is today. Paying Bill Jews a $9.1 million bonus -- and maybe another $18 million down the line -- is the fair and right thing to do."

4. Avoid tangents. Don't mention the governor's new wife expecting a baby and the cost of neonatal care. And any stuff about the Ravens and the NFL salary cap -- I'd leave that outside.

5. Use your charm. People around here are leery of big-money deals in the wake of Enron, Allfirst -- and Towson University spending $1.45 million on that Guilford fixer-upper for its new president. But I'm sure the CareFirst-WellPoint deal has merit beyond bonuses for executives, right? And I'm sure the successful and well-regarded Bill Jews can sell it. That's why you already get $2 million in annual salary and bonuses.

Now, go in there and kick some public-opinion butt. I'm rooting for you, Bill, because -- call Dan Rodricks crazy -- but Dan Rodricks loves an underdog.

Public speaks on Healy

Friday's column on the ouster of Maj. Donald Healy as commander of Baltimore's Northeastern Police District moved many readers to express strong opinions via e-mail.

All but one of the messages came from Baltimore's deep suburbs or southern Pennsylvania. I again found it remarkable that people who don't live here have such concern for Baltimore.

Also quite striking: Most of these letters offered some disparaging comment about black people. Indeed, the column provoked more than the usual amount of truly hateful and bigoted men to write angry letters expressing their offensive views. I considered publishing these letters in this space, but, after weighing that prospect carefully, decided: Nah, there's enough of that stuff in -- and on -- the air already.

As for other, more rational responses to Friday's column on the Healy matter, I'd like to thank the writers for showing some respect for other opinions and for offering intelligent commentary in defense of Healy.

But I need to point out something to the numerous writers who disagreed with me: I never said police should be prohibited from using a criminal suspect's race in a description. They obviously should.

However, there's a big distinction between a police commander's order to find a suspect fitting multiple and specific physical characteristics and the legally dubious order to stop "every black male."

Gregg Ford, one of the few e-mailers who identified himself as black, disagreed with my view that Healy should have remained in the Police Department, though not in the role of district commander. Ford said he was glad to see Healy go.

"I have been stopped by Baltimore City police many times for no reason other than I am a young black man who was in the area of a crime," Ford wrote. "My world view is quite different from yours. Where you assume [Healy's] memo was a mistake in judgment, I see it as a individual who in the heat of the moment spoke what he truly felt inside. ...

"When someone is in a position of power and they abuse that power toward whatever ends, it is wrong."

Thanks to the gas hogs

Someone has been going through the Johns Hopkins University parking lot off Wyman Park Drive leaving an elegantly printed note on certain of the motor vehicles there. "Thanks for supporting Saudi Arabia with this gas hog." Whaddaya know. A conscience-raising crusade in the middle of midterms.

Concert for bald and gray

The scene: MCI Center on Friday night, the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert. The old boys on stage sound pretty darn good. They're even able to stand for most of the concert.

During intermission, the bald and the gray stand four-deep waiting to use the facilities. Two lines extend out the men's room doors.

"All right, quit playin'!" cracks a voice from the rear of the lines. "Let's get it done and give the rest of us a chance."

And from near the wall comes the plaintive reply: "We're trying. But we're old."

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