LAS VEGAS—In the sweltering June desert heat (dry heat, sure, but 104 degrees is still 104 degrees) comes a wonderfly not dry—OK, let’s call it juicy—rumor. Filmmaker Michael Moore, he of the forthcoming cinematic indictment of American healthcare called “Sicko”, may make an appearance Thursday or Friday at the annual America’s Health Insurance Plans meeting.
When I heard this, I immediately thought of the film that first put Moore on the map, 1989’s “Roger & Me”, in which the portly Michigander pursues then-General Motors boss Roger Smith before finally confronting Smith at the company’s annual meeting. As a GM shareholder at the time, Moore was entitled to attend—except he brought a camera crew and pointedly asked Smith why GM pulled so many high-paying factory jobs from Moore’s decaying hometown of Flint, Mich.
If, in fact, Moore does show up here at the AHIP meeting, I seriously doubt he’ll get a chance to confront AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni in front of the gathered audience. I picture more of a staged demonstration on the posh grounds of the convention site, the Wynn Las Vegas, with an entourage of sick Americans allegedly denied care by insurance companies. Whatever it might be, I expect great theater. I’ll have my camera handy just in case.
Why do I suspect there’s something to the rumor? Aside from Moore’s history of high-profile publicity stunts, his name was mentioned in Wednesday’s performance of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” at the Wynn. Perhaps he was in the audience? Perhaps that’s just a regular part of the lyrics? I dunno, I’d never seen the show before. But I highly recommend it. (And now by mentioning it, my ticket becomes a deductible business expense. Same thing if I go see “Sicko.”)
Even if Moore doesn’t show, a bona fide movie star will be part of the official program. AHIP has confirmed that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will speak at Friday’s closing session.
Meanwhile, I became the butt of a joke on Wednesday. During a session on consumer-directed health plans, panelist David Harris of PricewaterhouseCoopers noted how many parties, from consumers to providers to banks to health insurers themselves, don’t quite understand exactly how high-deductible health plans and HSAs are supposed to work. Harris noted how early adopters of the automobile a century ago tended to get into a lot of accidents because they weren’t quite sure how to operate those newfangled horseless carriages.
During the Q&A portion of the session, I commented how I have an HSA from a bank that didn’t offer an HSA debit card for more than a year after I first opened my account, suggesting that the bank jumped in without fully planning its strategy. (I was writing checks at the pharmacy.) I also mentioned my experience in getting a free injection from a P.A. who didn’t think it was worth the time to check the price of the service.
“You’re an accident,” Harris jokingly said. One of the other panelists suggested my employer didn’t do much homework before offering the consumer-directed plan. I then said I was self-employed, to much laughter.
So there you have it: What happens in Vegas … eventually ends up on the Internet.