Tonight, the first of seven debates between former Congressman Rick Hill and Steve Bullock was held in Helena. Lot’s of interesting fodder for discussion.
Before we get to the meat of the matter, it’s worth noting that Libertarian candidate Ron Vandevender was not even allowed to participate in the debate, which was hosted by the Helena IR. It makes one wonder why Hill is so afraid of sharing the stage with a fellow conservative.
As anyone with a Twitter account is already aware, there was much discussion tonight of Hill’s decision to leave his lectern and wander all around the stage. Word on the street is there was a bit of a kerfuffle before the debate between Hill, his campaign manager and the editor of the IR. The campaign was rumored to be upset that Hill’s lectern might have been “taller” than Bullock’s, which could explain the aimless maundering.
Anyway, the bigger news of the night is Hill’s blatant refusal give a simple answer to how much money he made chairing and serving on various insurance industry boards. Under Hill’s tenure, these boards raised rates as much as 36 percent on Montana families.
It’s public information that Congressman Hill made hundreds of thousands serving on the Board of Directers of Blue Cross Blue Shield. Not because the part-time Californian provided the info, but because the company is required by law to disclose such things to retain its “non-profit” status. However, Hill won’t say what he was paid as a board member of and consultant to Blue Cross’s lucrative for-profit subsidiary insurance companies. These for-profit subsidiaries, including Western States Insurance, HealthEWeb, and others, aren’t required to disclose their executive compensation packages–even though they are wholly owned subsidiaries of the “non-profit” Blue Cross.
This screenshot for the website of Blue Cross’s Health-e-Web Inc. lists Hill as a board member. The other subsidiaries don’t even list their board members online, little alone how much their big-wigs make to sit around munching paninis and reading glossy memos. Probably, he made big bucks. Blue Cross just sold Western States Insurance to an out-of-state company. The new company is worth $90 million.
Back in February when Hill was asked on the Aaron Flint show whether he would disclose this information, he said:
“We will release that to the media, I will have all of that gathered together. I haven’t finished my tax returns, yet. Over the next few weeks, you know, we will provide that information to the public. The public is entitled to know about it.”
Apparently not. When Steve Bullock asked Hill to disclose how much his income went up during the rate hikes, Hill refused. Instead, Hill tried to escape the question by claiming to have disclosed what was already public information anyway–the Blue Cross cash. He refused to mention the more gainful for-profit subsidiary companies.
Pasted below the fold is a transcript of Hill refusing to disclose the info tonight’s debate–and a transcript of Hill claiming on Flint’s show to be willing to disclose the facts before he was against it.
Please consider this post an open forum to discuss the debate.
Bullock: Congressman Hill, you’ve served on the Boards of Directors, even as chairman, of many health insurance companies. While you were an executive with these corporations, they raised premiums year after year in Montana, sometimes as much as 36%. But despite the rates going up, likely you saw compensation go up year after year. You said in February on a statewide radio program that you would release exactly how much you made during your tenure and activities with all of these different insurance companies In fact, in February you said you would release it in the next few weeks, and you said the public has a right to know. Since you haven’t done so yet and it’s been seven months, do you no longer think that the public has a right to know that, and if so when are you going to release it.
Hill: As you know Steve, the Board fees that I receive, I served on the Board of Directors for Blue Cross Blue shield, are published every year. In fact I think your office overlooks that, and so anybody can go online and see how much compensation I have received as a member of the Board of Directors of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana. There’s not a single occasion where the Board of Directors of Blue Cross Blue Shield approved a rate increase of 36%. As a matter of fact, what we did is we tried to manage our investments to a point so that we would actually plan on no profit whatsoever from the sale of health insurance, and if you look at the history of Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which is a not-for–profit entity, I think the profit margin over the lifetime of the plan is something around a half a percent. Today, Blue Cross Blue Shield as we all read in the paper is struggling with the economic conditions that have been driven by the changing tide in terms of health care and health insurance, and I think it’s a tragedy that we’re probably going to lose having that entity that’s been here for a very long time in our community. But they have no choice, they’re going to have to associate with a larger company in order to sustain themselves. You know, the people who served on that Board are some of the more prominent businesspeople and some of the more prominent health care professionals in the state of Montana, and every one of us went on that Board saying what can we do to try to lower the cost of health insurance and make it more affordable for the people in the state of Montana. I’m proud of the service that I had on that Board, every day I went there with that idea in mind, everybody on that Board will tell you that I was a driving force bringing down the administrative costs by tens of millions of dollars for Blue Cross and Blue Shield during this tenure. And so as a consequence of that, I think it’s unfair of you to criticize me for my service for a not-for-profit entity that is providing quality services to so many Montanans.
VOICES OF MONTANA – 2/9/2012
VOICES OF MONTANA HOST: Let me take an e-mail, it says, Mr. Hill you sit on a board of a not for profit business, Blue Cross Blue Shield. What is your total compensation for that and consulting you do for subsidiaries of Blue Cross Blue Shield.
HILL: You know I don’t serve on the Board for Blue Cross Blue Shield.
VOICES OF MONTANA HOST: Did you?
HILL: I did.
VOICES OF MONTANA HOST: When did you stop that?
HILL: Last June I stepped off of the board, obviously there could be a conflict of interest being a candidate for office and sitting on that.
VOICES OF MONTANA HOST: What about their subsidiaries?
HILL: They have, I am about to answer the questions, I served on the board of Blue Cross Blue Shield, I chaired, they have a holding company that oversees their for profit subseries, I chaired that board. I chaired the board for one of those for profit subsidiaries, large business that has branch offices all over Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. There are two other subsidiaries, one that markets ancillary products and one that does the collection of data for insurance claims all over the country. I served on those boards as well. Then I served on multiple committees of all of those boards. I was pretty active involvement, I haven’t sat down to total all of that up. But I will be putting that together and releasing that to the public.
VOICES OF MONTANA HOST: You will?
HILL: Yeah, absolutely. There is no reason the public shouldn’t know about it.
VOICES OF MONTANA HOST: That will be released on your website I am sure.
HILL: We will release that to the media, I will have all of that gathered together, I haven’t finished my tax returns yet. Over the next few weeks you know we will provide that information to the public, the public is entitled to know about it.