As a Republican bill to slash much of the Affordable Care Act moved forward, Rep. Mike Conaway, a Texas Republican and member of Speaker Paul Ryan’s leadership team, added a health insurance company to his portfolio. An account owned by Conaway’s wife made two separate of UnitedHealth stock, worth as much as $30,000, on March 24th, the day the legislation advanced in the House Rules Committee, according to mandatory public disclosures. The exact value of Conaway’s investment isn’t clear, given that congressional ethics forms only show a range of amounts. Conaway’s office has declined to comment.
It was a savvy move, dripping with conflicts of interest. Health industry stocks, including insurance giants like UnitedHealth, have surged as Republicans move forward with their repeal effort, which rolls back broad taxes on health care firms while loosening consumer regulations which prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for medical treatment. UnitedHealth has gained nearly 7 percent in value since March 24.
The House bill eliminated the protections for preexisting conditions, and the only version of the Senate bill which has emerged publicly allows insurers to offer plans which don’t cover much of anything, eradicating the ACA’s list of required benefits. The upshot: Insurers will be able to avoid covering preexisting conditions, and can rake in premiums without the risk of having to pay much in claims. Basically, the House and Senate Republicans are plotting a way to allow insurers to screw you over nine ways to Sunday. And that means that profits and stock values are gaining steam in anticipation of the coming ratfucking of the American insurance consumer.
Conaway wasn’t the only one raking in money over this GOP ratfuckery. As the health care system overhaul advanced last month on the other side of Capitol Hill, Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, oil industry sycophant and one of the worst people ever born, bought between $50,000 to $100,000 in UnitedHealth stock. His spokesperson, Nicole Hage, has been quoted as saying that “Sen. Inhofe has a financial advisor who makes transactions on his behalf and these transactions are disclosed as required by the STOCK Act. The transaction you reference was routine and made without the Senator’s prior knowledge or consultation.”
That’s a legally necessary disclaimer, and a complete load of horseshit. The issue of insider political trading, with members and staff buying and selling stock using privileged information, has continued to plague Congress. It gained national prominence during the confirmation hearings for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, when it was revealed that the Georgia Republican had bought shares in Innate Immunotherapeutics, a relatively obscure Australian biotechnology firm, while legislating on policies that could have impacted the firm’s performance.
The stock advice had been passed to Price from Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., a board member for Innate Immunotherapeutics, and was shared with a number of other GOP lawmakers, who also invested in the firm. Conaway, records show, also bought shares in the company a week after Price.
Conaway, who serves as a GOP deputy whip in the House, has a long record of investing in firms that coincide with his official duties. Politico reported recently that Conaway’s wife purchased stock in a nuclear firm just after Conaway sponsored a bill to deal with nuclear waste storage in his district. The company was to directly benefit from the legislation. As a member of Congress who knew that, and was making legislative moves to make that happen, Conaway traded on his early inside knowledge to profit personally.
This issue became somewhat prominent, but not prominent enough, after reports surfaced that during the 2008 financial crisis, multiple lawmakers from both parties rearranged their financial portfolios to avoid heavy losses. In one case, former Rep. Spencer Baucus, R-Ala., used confidential meetings about the unfolding bank crisis to make special trades designed to increase in value as the stock market plummeted. It was kind of “The Big Short”, but instead of acting on research and instinct, Baucus was using clear insider information.
Congress eventually acted with the STOCK Act, legislation designed to curb insider trading abuses. But the law was quickly watered down with amendments, and some provisions of it were later repealed. The House of Representatives has actively fought efforts to enforce the law after the SEC tried to investigate one congressional staffer accused of passing health care information to a set of hedge funds.
There should and must be consequences for a politician trading on insider information which are equivalent to the penalties that the ordinary citizen would face for trading on insider information. Even Martha Stewart went to jail. Yet House and Senate Republicans are making mad money trading on their inside knowledge that your health coverage is likely to get a lot worse, and that insurance company profits are about to get a lot better.
But hey, I’m just a libtard, so what do I know. Republican voters must be happy with this kind of behavior to keep these creeps in power. It’s clearly making America great again – if you’ve got the portfolio and you’re a member of the club.