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Blue Cross, Blue Shield Getting Richer, Like Corporate Insurers

I've written frequently in recent weeks about the eye-popping profits the big, publicly-traded health companies have been reporting. Last year -- as the number of Americans without health insurance grew to nearly 51 million -- the five largest for-profit insurers (Aetna, CIGNA, Humana, UnitedHealth and WellPoint) had combined profits of $11.7 billion.

Health insurance dollarsBut that was so 2010.

If the profits those companies made during the first three months of this year are an indication of things to come, 2011 will more than likely be the most profitable year ever for these new darlings of Wall Street.

But lest you think only those big New York Stock Exchange-listed corporations have figured out how to make money hand over fist while their base of policyholders is shrinking, take a look at the so-called nonprofit Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans.

Wisconsinites Get Revved up for Workers' Rights

Moto3Hundreds of Wisconsinites lined Madison's Capitol Square Saturday to welcome bikers from all over the Midwest and to protest Governor Scott Walker's attack on Wisconsin unions. Just when Walker thought he had memorized all the chants and signs, Wisconsinites revved it up a notch.

Every kind of bike, from Harley-Davidsons to Huffys, descended onto the Square from Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd and South Hamilton Street. Eric Hartz, the organizer of the event, complemented the thunderous entrance with songs from the Raging Grannies, a social justice organization made up of older women. Other speakers included Sen. John Erpenbach, Sen. Mark Miller, Rep. Cory Mason, Rep. Peter Barca, Milwaukee Public School Teachers and the City of Middleton Fire Fighters.

Leader of Utah Recall Group Exposed

Daniel Arthur Elliott, A.K.A. Dan BaltesBack in February, CMD wrote that a little-known Utah group was behind many of the recall campaigns in Wisconsin targeting Democrats. The story about the American Recall Coalition left many Democrats and Republicans in Wisconsin scratching their heads. Now more is being discovered about this mysterious group and its leader Dan Baltes.

The Salt Lake City Deseret News has done an in-depth profile of Baltes. For starters, Dan Baltes isn't his real name. His real name is Daniel Arthur Elliott. The Deseret News says, "He took his third wife's last name after they married about 3 ½ years ago. He said he wanted to distance himself from an ex-girlfriend and an ex-wife."

Fire Fighters Turn off the Spigot

Union.jpgRemember when the fight broke out in Wisconsin over the right to collectively bargain and President Obama and a phalanx of national Democratic leaders spread out across the country fighting for the rights of American workers?

Right, we don't remember that either.

As unions battled for their very existence, the thunderous silence from Washington, D.C. did not go unnoticed by working families fighting for their livelihoods or by powerful political players. At least one organization has decided to hold a few of their former friends accountable.

The International Association of Fire Fighters, announced yesterday it would no longer be giving money to federal candidates. Rather, the 300,000-member union said it would put its energy and resources into the fight at the state level over collective bargaining.

Could Michigan-style "Martial Law" Be On Its Way to Wisconsin?

Rumors have been circulating about a little-known initiative to subject Wisconsin local governments to "stress tests" and other new constraints. Many believe the proposal resembles the "martial law" bill that was recently passed in Michigan, which allows the state government to dissolve local governments in a "fiscal emergency," and worry that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker or his friends in the legislature could be cooking up a similar plan.

Madison's Battle of the Brats

Brats on the grillThe "World's Largest Brat Fest," which will take place over Memorial Day weekend at Willow Island at the Alliant Energy Center, will serve brats donated by Johnsonville Sausage of Sheboygan Falls, WI. Johnsonville owners (the Stayer and Stayer-Maloney families) and other principals of Johnsonville Sausage contributed a total of $48,450 to Scott Walker's gubernatorial and other 2010 Republican state campaigns, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's Campaign Finance Database.

Insurers Getting Rich By Not Paying for Care

If I had stayed in the insurance industry, my net worth would have spiked between 4 p.m. Wednesday and 4 p.m. Thursday last week -- and I wouldn't even have had to show up for work.

Mr. MonopolyI'm betting that just about every executive of a for-profit health insurance company, whose total compensation ultimately depends on the value of their stock options, woke up on Good Friday considerably wealthier than they were 24 hours earlier. Why? Because of the spectacular profits that one of those companies reported Thursday morning.

Among those suddenly wealthier executives, by the way, are the corporate medical directors who decide whether or not patients will get coverage for treatments their doctors believe might save their lives.

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