Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Tuesday’s Tirade
The Washington Post and Indifference to Suffering

In a simple twist of fate, I spoke with Washington Post reporter Steven Pearlstein on May 20, 2008. Pearlstein is a Pulitzer Prize winning commentator who writes about business and finance.

With a penchant for accuracy and fairness, the Post usually has a great nose for stories. But that nose was stuffed up the day I phoned Pearlstein with questions about his article about Coventry Health Care, Inc. of Bethesda MD:

Coventry’s Profitability Prescription
October 7, 2005

As corporate addresses go, there's no better in the Washington area than Bethesda's Rockledge Drive. Lockheed Martin. Marriott. Coventry Health Care.

Never heard of Coventry? You're not alone. This company has operated under the radar for many years, running HMOs and health insurance plans under a variety of names. The presence of its 220-person headquarters in Bethesda is an accidental legacy of a long-ago merger. Its top executives are some of the highest-paid in the region but are virtual unknowns, rarely taking visible roles in civic affairs or even industry conferences. And Coventry's idea of corporate media relations is to refuse to respond to reporters' inquiries.

Where Coventry is well known, however, is on Wall Street, where it has become a darling of analysts and institutional investors. Over the past five years, while an investment in the S&P 500 index would have lost 7 percent, investors in Coventry enjoyed a total return of 753.1 percent, making it one of the market's top performers among large companies.
Read Post Coventry's Profitability Prescription http://www.freewebs.com/courageoffaith/Coventry

Coventry’s Profitability Prescription details the success of the former health care giant Coventry Health Care, Inc. In 2005, Coventry produced remarkable growth. Impressive financials. Lowest of “loss ratios” and highly paid executives. In Pearlstein’s words they were “a master of skills” to control costs. Picture looks bright? Only one disquieting truth as Pearlstein noted: their customers are not very happy.

Like radio legend Paul Harvey frequently said, “Here’s the rest of the story.” It goes like this: We are experiencing a major health care crisis in our country and there is no transparency for the very health plans that literally control our lives and deaths. While mainstream media ignores many HMO horror stories, the problem remains a silent cry for help to this day.

Pearlstein? He answers his phone. He hears my description of a different face of Coventry Health Care, Inc. and answers the e-mail I sent him attaching evidence of Carelink abuses. Evidence that demonstrates that benefits are rejected that should be authorized under consumers’ benefit’s packages.

Pearlstein listened. He reflected. He makes a decision.

Pearlstein was not interested in the rest of the story. He remained silent as have so many others who are in a position to expose the truth.

Pearlstein e-mailed me the next day:
"Honestly, this is not something I'm going to pursue. I'm not an investigative reporter, we're not in West Virginia and Coventry has o visibility (and very few people) in the Washington headquarters. I'm sorry."

No, Sir, it is I who am sorry. Many families of those who were abused by a heartless system are sorry. Only many of them can no longer tell their stories. They are dead.

Why not google ‘Steven Pearlstein’ and draw your own conclusion about the investigative nature of some of his articles? In my eyes, as Pearlstein was playing games with me, a valiant man lost his life. He was no ordinary man. He had, unlike Pearlstein, devoted his life to saving the lives of others, as a firefighter for the city of Omaha Nebraska. Coventry Health Care, Inc. first rejected the doctors’ pleas for a medically necessary treatment. He died before receiving his benefits Coventry in time authorized:

Coventry, the city's health benefits manager, finally agreed to pay for the procedure after an appeal by Fausset, his family, and his union. "It was a very big extended period of time,” says Bates. “We have been fighting this for a very extended period of time. We were fighting for weeks to get him coverage for the bone marrow transplant."
Read Post Ailing Firefighter Dies

Mr. Steven Pearlstein, in light of the limited investigation into the grave abuses of HMOs I have made, I have learned an important fact: it does not take an investigative reporter to report the real story about Coventry. It takes passion and courage and a real concern about the suffering of those who have no voice against the grave injustices of our health care system.

Where is your conscience, Mr. Pearlstein?

Tuesday’s Tale
The Amazing Potential of Blogs

The thing about Coventry is that, unless you are "inside" in some way, or have some way to monitor SEC filings instantaneously, you'll never have any transparency into what the company is doing at any one time because they are the only major insurer that has a strict policy of no media interviews of any kind at any time. They are transparent to Wall Street analysts, regulators, and no one else. At all. Ever.
Managed Care Matters, January 28, 2009

As you have read with the Washington Post, many times the news is just one subjective choice after another of what to cover by a news organization. Oftentimes, the concrete newsworthy happenings of individuals may never be reported.

Blogs equalize the playing field.

In June of 2008, I visited my spiritual director. We had been meeting since 2005 when he encouraged me to take on my former HMO, Carelink Health Care, Inc., to hold them accountable for injustices committed against me and to publish the results of my investigation.

My spiritual director is a quiet, unassuming, humble yet wise priest. But we were both surprised that mainstream media was not interested in my story of the greed and corruption within my state. That June day, with a sense of urgency, he encouraged me to write a blog .

On June 10, 2008, Tuesday’s Tirades and Tales was born. Since then I have had great success in publishing my bizarre story. A lesson for we who are advocates: blogs have power to inform and persuade when other media fear the story.

While the Steven Pearlsteins dismiss the serious “news” I have uncovered, my blog reaches people across the USA. Last week was a turning point. Providentially, I discovered the following blog that enjoys high traffic:

A Letter to Coventry Employees …. Here's the ugly truth - and it reflects not on you, but on Coventry management. Their arrogance and hubris has been the cause of their downfall. So confident were they in their abilities that they ignored the basics of the business - issue cards on time, monitor IBNRs, track medical trend and all its components, stick to what you know, treat customers as you would like to be treated. Now that it's too late, we finally hear a chastened, perhaps even humble tone from Coventry management. Fortunately the experts on Wall Street finally removed their heads from wherever they were storing them and figured out these guys (and they are almost all guys) didn't have a grasp on their business. There's plenty of talent at Coventry, and whatever happens to the company, that is recognized in the industry.
Read Post Manage Care Matters Open Letter to Coventry Employees http://www.freewebs.com/courageoffaith/Managed%20Care%20Matters%20Coventry%20Employees.mht

My personal experience is that “blogs do speak the truth to power.” Since June 2008, not one of the six major news media I contacted has reported my story. Since June 2008, my blog has reached 418 unique visitors who paid 915 visits viewing 4,810 pages of Tuesday's Tirades and Tales. That's a five page average per each visit.

But seldom do people visit my blog outside of Tuesdays. Until, that is, I left a comment on a popular blog. Due to new interest, there have been 46 additional visitors, making 55 visits, viewing 230 pages.

Time remains on my side. It only takes one right visitor with an informed conscience to ignite a fire that can quickly spread to other health care reformers.

My spiritual director led me to dream the impossible, believing that one person can make a difference in helping to create change. Any surprise here? Father's wisdom is from the Bible. While the bible informs one about Truth; blogs, written with honesty, can spread the truth that will set us all free. Spread it all over this country where there remains an outcry for health care reform.

Yes we can.

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