McGuire deserves some empathy


Lately the press has been excoriating former UnitedHealth Group Chairman and CEO William McGuire — and rightfully so — for his fleecing the company and public of multi-millions of dollars by way of a practice called backdating of stock options. It has become a national scandal of significant magnitude because the Minnetonka-based company, under his watch, has become the largest healthcare-based organization in the country.

For his bad-boy corporate shenanigans, McGuire has to pay back more $618 million. But don’t shed too many tears for the future welfare of the ousted UnitedHealth chief. According to the Star Tribune, he still owns 651,111 shares in the company, with options to buy 31.5 billion more, which at the current price is valued at $1.8 million.

Many are saying that McGuire should be made to suffer more severe punishment for his deeds. A writer in the Tribune stated, “…like other criminals, he should be subjected to jail time rather than his swank Minnetonka home.”

Here’s where I depart from conventional thnking — even though I agree that his actions were notorious. But, Mr. McGuire was CEO of a large corporation, after all, and the main function of the position is to maximize corporate earnings. That is exactly what he did in pushing the company to the very top in its category.

Instead of granting Mr. McGuire all of the blame, I am saving most of my ire for the politicians who were responsible for making his company and hundred of others like his capable of earning such fortunes. It all started way back in the Reagan administration when he set out to privatize everything, believing that government services were inherently bureaucratic.

It was then that HMOs were created, which in my judgment turned out to be a wooden horse for privatization of the healthcare industry. Giant health companies sprung up that eventually took over hospitals, controlled doctors, and managed all of our healthcare machinery.

The bottom line of these industries was not the best care for all, but the Wall Street profit line.

When anyone suggests a different system, something similar to those employed by all of the other industrial countries in the world, these profit-driven industries are quick to scream the scare words — “socialized medicine!”

So, until politicians gain the temerity to give medical care back to the medical profession and take it from Wall Street, there are going to be more William McGuires and his ilk.

Matthew Little welcomes reader responses to mlittle