Via America’s Lawyer: Mike Papantonio and Trial Magazine Executive Editor Farron Cousins discuss a new report that reveals the health insurance industry is offering big prizes to contractors who convince companies to go with higher priced plans that offer little protection for their employees. Then, Mike Papantonio is joined by RT Correspondent Brigida Santos to discuss how a federal judge has approved historic plans to change the way the Chicago police department interacts with the public.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio:             More than half of the people in the United States get their health insurance coverage from their employer and most of them aren’t happy with that coverage. A new study came out that helps explain why your coverage from your employer is so awful and I have Farron Cousins from Trial Lawyer Magazine with me now to tell us about it. Farron, this story, it was really, it’s still under the radar. ProPublica did a story on it. NPR did an investigation on it and right now people are complaining that this new, this new shift, the new Obamacare shift, the new coverage issues, they feel like they’re getting a lot less and they’re blaming it on the legislation to some degree. But really when you look at this story, it’s really about the same old thing. The people at the top trying to squeeze as much money as they can out of the American consumer.

Farron Cousins:                  And what they do, what this investigations found is that a lot of companies out there, their HR departments hire these insurance brokers. They’re not with the health insurance company. They’re not with the company buying the insurance. It’s essentially this group of, of middlemen and what they do is they work with the health insurance company and say, all right, you let us know what plans you have. We’ll go sell them to the employer. But what we didn’t know until now is that the insurance companies and these brokers had worked out deals. These brokers in many cases get a percentage of the plans they sell and they get that as long as the employer goes with them.

Mike Papantonio:             Let’s back up. First of all, we would expect the American, you know we, we expect that salespeople get commissions. We expect all that. This is different though

Farron Cousins:                  It is.

Mike Papantonio:             This is where you have you, you, you go to the HR Department or whoever it is that’s making the decision. You say, look, we have two options for you. Option A and option B and they don’t tell him about options C because option C might give the best coverage. It might do away with, it might do away with a lot of the problems that A and B have, but the broker who, who really has a conflict of interest here. Clear conflict of interest says, you know what we think you ought to go with, with program A because program A, the broker is making a lot of money that he’s not disclosing why he doesn’t talk about C. He talks about A, because that’s where he makes the most money. That’s where he gets his trips around the world is, you know, his voyages to Europe. This is something that there, there’s no regulation here. We have brokers that are out there operating and people working in companies don’t even know why their insurance coverage has gone from bad to worse.

Farron Cousins:                  Well, and it’s interesting too that you brought up these incentives they get, not just the commission. You understand if somebody sells and they get a commission, whatever, but, but they’re also offering these bonuses. Sometimes for a group of brokers, you can get a $150,000 bonus, but it’s not the health insurance company that’s paying that. Those bonuses, these trips, you know, they had one offer go play baseball with a major league Hall of Famer. That’s actually built into the price of those insurance plans. So the employer and the employees who buy the plans, they’re the ones paying for the bonuses. It’s not coming out of the health insurance company’s pocket, not coming out of the broker’s pocket. We, the people who have that insurance paid that as an addition to a premium.

Mike Papantonio:             The problem is so bad in the United States that they’ve actually had to come, there are actually organizations that have been put together where they’re saying it’s, it’s called Health Rosetta. Health Rosetta is an organization that says, look, there are about a hundred thousand brokers in the country and all those 100,000 brokers should be required to disclose to the HR or to the company. We have these other plans and they’re better for your employees, but I don’t make as much money. So this organization, Health Rosetta is saying, I mean the numbers are staggering. I think there’s only a hundred, maybe 110, 111 organizations that, that follow this Rosetta plan. And that’s out of 100,000 brokers in the country. Why? Because there simply is no transparency. There’s no regulation to demand transparency. And because of that, the problem for the average person, the employee is the coverage is getting much less. And the, the, the costs just to have the coverage is increasing.

Farron Cousins:                  Right, and this Rosetta group, what they do is they’ve said, listen, we don’t take percentages, we don’t take commissions. It’s a flat fee. We do our job for you. We’re going to do the best we can for you. Nobody is giving us additional money. And that’s what makes the difference. And with these plans that we currently have now, the up sells. What they’ll do in a lot of cases too, is charge for a more expensive plan that covers things that there’s no way anybody in your company could ever possibly need.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay.

Farron Cousins:                  But they sell it as, well just in case you know what, if you have an employee and this happens, then your whole plan gets blown up. So by this one with this extra covering.

Mike Papantonio:             Okay, so here’s what we tell people. Here’s what’s important. We know Health Net of California is doing this. We know emblem of EmblemHealth in New York is doing this.

Mike Papantonio:             We know that blue cross, blue, blue, blue cross blue shield is doing this, the blues are doing this. If you, if you have a human source HR department, I think the thing to do is to go to them and say, look, is this taking place? Because the HR department, most of them don’t even understand how this works. The, I mean you know they have training in HR but they don’t have training to understand this scam. And the scam if, if you, look, it’s impossible for me to believe that if you tell a broker, if you sell this, this, this item that is substandard by all, by all means it’s substandard. If you sell this, we’re going to give you, you can make as much as $150,000. these bonuses run up to where the, the entity is paying out $150,000 in kind of extra bonuses for selling this kind of stuff. And so it, it, it, it’s impossible for me to believe Farron that in that, in that environment that you don’t have brokers that are taking advantage of this and the HR department really doesn’t even know about it.

A federal judge has approved historic plans to change the way the police department in Chicago interacts with the public. The new policies aimed to reform a police department that’s long been accused of violating civil rights, using deadly force in violating the constitution most of the time when they use that deadly force. RT correspondent Brigida Santos joins me now with all the details. First of all, Brigida, let’s talk about the federal judge, he’s approved these plans. What, what are the plans that we’re looking at? What are the big changes that this judge is willing to approve?

Brigida Santos:                   First of all, the changes have been proposed since 2014 after a dash cam recording showed Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, shooting teenager, Laquan McDonald 16 times resulting in his death. The officer was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to over six years in prison, but that case spawned massive protests across the city and earned a response from the Justice Department calling for comprehensive policy reforms within the Chicago Police Department. So now after more than a year and a half of negotiations, city and state officials have finally reached an agreement. Now, as for what’s in the agreement, there are hundreds of changes outlined in the court ordered agreement, some of the most significant include new guidelines for how and when officers can or cannot deploy firearms and tasers.

It also commits the city to ensuring that police officers fully comply with the constitution of the United States and Illinois state. It also prescribes community policing and youth engagement initiatives to build trust between officers and the communities they serve and it says that it will determine the overall effectiveness of the department based on crime reduction rates rather than by the number of arrests, stops or citations that are made. The judge who approved this plan is now in the process of choosing a leader to monitor all the parties involved to make sure that they comply with the new rules and they’re going to be looking at that over the coming years. Now, that decision is expected by March first, and once a leader is chosen, the new rules are expected to go into effect.

Mike Papantonio:             What I like about this is when Chicago pays attention to this and they actually implement plans, it may have a really big effect on so many other large cities, police department. But it’s almost as if we’re not seeing as many, you know, we went through a rash there where it was like every week there was some type of shooting or killing that was arguably a mistake or an intentional attack on a victim that was being arrested. We would see those, we would see those stories constantly. I’m not seeing as many. Maybe there’s something already taken place as far as the public putting pressure on the various police departments. Look, Attorney General Jeff sessions previously called the plan a colossal mistake. Why? Why would he say that? Why is this plan a colossal mistake?

Brigida Santos:                   Before he stepped down as US attorney general, Jeff Sessions denounced the plan, calling it undemocratic and an insult to Chicago police officers, stating that would impose unjustified restrictions on police officers.

Mike Papantonio:             Well, I mean, the unjustified restrictions, of course, we’re talking about Jeff Sessions here. So let’s, let’s start from square one. So Jeff sessions thinks that it’s, that it’s a little really overreaching when we train officers better. When we give them more insight into how they can avoid unnecessarily killing people Sessions, if you read between the lines, and this is not new for Sessions and you’d go all the way back to his time in Alabama, it was always, what is it Mr. Sessions that gives you such pause where it comes to saying the police department, you know, we can do better? We can build. How difficult do you think it will be for the department to roll out these reforms, Brigida?

Brigida Santos:                   It’s obviously going to be a very tough road ahead because old habits die hard, but they have to start somewhere. They’d been ordered to start somewhere and hopefully these changes are going to result in fewer police killings and building better relationships with police and the communities in Chicago that they represent. And as you said, maybe setting an example nationally.

Mike Papantonio:             Well that’s my hope. My hope is that this A, it works. B, you start seeing a really big, big downturn in unnecessarily killings or just kind of brutal arrest. Hopefully we start seeing that, but you know, you gotta give it, you got to give it to them in Chicago. They’re making a, they’re making an attempt to do it. When other large cities just want to put their head in the sand and act like this whole problem is just going to go away. Thank you for joining me Brigida.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.