MINNEAPOLIS - While United Health Group, Inc., tried to reassure shareholders that it's addressing a stock scandal that forced the ouster of CEO William McGuire, protesters outside the HMO's annual meeting called for universal health care.
The demonstrators, organized by the Universal Health Care Action Network-Minnesota, www.uhcan-mn.org, said United Health and other insurers continue to make massive profits while millions of Americans lack health coverage. They protested outside the Minneapolis Convention Center where United Health – the largest HMO in the country – held its annual meeting Tuesday morning.
"Right now, we have a market-based system that's been proven unsustainable," said UHCAN member Stefanie Levi. "People are dying as a result of our broken health care system."
At the annual meeting, United Health announced that in 2006, it increased earnings by 37 percent, revenue by 54 percent, and cash flow by 60 percent. Management also tried to reassure shareholders that the company was responding to concerns raised after McGuire was forced out last year in a scandal over the backdating of stock options. Before his ouster, McGuire was the highest-paid executive in Minnesota, receiving $124 million in stock options alone in 2006.
United Health shareholders rejected proposals put forth by investor groups, including the California public pension system, to tighten controls on executive compensation and open up board elections. Instead, shareholders approved company-backed proposals that make modest changes in the board election process.
The number of uninsured Americans is approaching 50 million and millions more are under-insured.