During the last legislative session, emergency physicians went to Annapolis to lobby for an increase in reimbursement rates for physicians in Maryland's emergency departments. CareFirst representatives testified that this would result in an added cost of $1 million, which would have to be passed on to the consumers.
We lost our battle because legislators did not wish to place an additional burden on Maryland citizens. If I only knew then what I know now.
The Sun's article "CareFirst bonuses criticized as illegal" (Nov. 15) outlined the termination packages for William L. Jews, the CEO of CareFirst, and his executive staff. These packages totaled almost $50 million without the company's proposed sale to WellPoint Health Networks Inc. and $120 million if the sale is approved.
If I had had this information last session, I would have suggested that if Mr. Jews and his vice presidents would cut their severance packages in half, we could fund this increase in physician reimbursement for the next 20 years. If we included monies to be paid under the WellPoint deal, we could fund it for 50 years.
How is it possible for executives in a "nonprofit" corporation to become instant millionaires? How is it possible for this much money to be available for these bonuses?
The answer is simple. The money has been accumulated by years of underpaying physicians and overcharging subscribers in Maryland.
Last year, Mr. Jews received almost $3 million in pay and bonuses. I do not know any physicians who get that kind of money. And if I add up everything I have earned in my 20 years of medical practice, it comes to less than 10 percent of what Mr. Jews' payout would be under the WellPoint deal.
What has been revealed during this process is so morally reprehensible that many people find it hard to comprehend.
But are we willing to accept that the people who manage the health insurance dollars are valued more highly than the physicians and other providers who care for patients?
This stockpile of money that CareFirst's executives are reaching for does not belong to them. It belongs to the physicians who have been underpaid and the subscribers who have been overcharged for years.
If the insurance commissioner approves the company's proposed sale, this bonus money should be returned to those constituencies. If the sale does not proceed, the yearly salary and bonus packages of these executives should be re-evaluated.
Health insurance dollars should go to patient care, not corporate greed.
Dr. Linda De Feo
The writer is president of the Maryland chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians.