It’s time for Congress to start reading some proxy statements!

October 14, 2009

As we all know now, the Senate Finance Committee passed healthcare legislation yesterday. Of course, as this Bloomberg story points out, there’s still a long way to go.

One of the many things that has been amusing during this whole debate has been resistance by many Democrats — a letter signed by 156 members of Congress was sent to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi last week — objecting to a tax on high-end plans. The basic argument is that ordinary people — I’ve heard a reference to people who drive minivans — like teachers and coal miners would wind up being taxed since they tend to have expensive benefits.

But what becomes clear after reading the letter is that none of these folks who signed it have ever read a proxy statement. If they did, they might have seen things like Allis-Chalmers (ALY) disclosure that we footnoted two weeks ago, which highlighted how the company spent $72K on healthcare for the CEO last year. Or, this item that I wrote about for the New York Times Dealbook that had the CEO of a medical device company using the corporate jet to fly to a doctor’s appointment.

The filings are chock-full of examples of Cadillac healthcare plans — some executives (and their families) are covered for the rest of their lives. And visits to the much-hailed Mayo Clinic and other types of so-called executive healthcare are a frequent perk. It’s also practically routine to have the company cover the costs of coverage for several years following a change in control or some other job loss. We think it’s high time for Congress to start mining the filings for some of these examples. We’re here if they need some help figuring out how to navigate the filings!

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