“Distressed AOL baby” mama speaks out

A round of DoS attacks swept through FTB this Sunday. SkepChick and others were also hit so deduce what you may. It seems to be working now, but if you’re experiencing delays waiting for the page to load, that’s the crack software making sure you’re not a bot. We’re going to a new hosting service in a few weeks in part precisely because of this kind of shit.

Meanwhile, back in Tim Armstrong’s world, the world’s biggest asshole CEO of the week who tried to screw AOL employees out of some retirement benefits by blaming his company’s blow out, record quarter on Obamacare and two employees who had the bad sense to have premature babies, one of those mothers spoke up and spoke up loud:

Slate — Here is how we supposedly became a drain on AOL’s coffers. On Oct. 9, 2012, when I woke up in pain, my husband was at the airport about to board a flight for a work trip. I was home alone with our 1-year-old son and barely able to comprehend that I could be in labor. By the time I arrived at the hospital, my husband a few minutes behind, I was fully dilated and my baby’s heartbeat was slowing. Within 20 minutes, my daughter was delivered via emergency cesarean, resuscitated, and placed in the neonatal intensive care unit.

She weighed 1 pound, 9 ounces. Her skin was reddish-purple, bloody and bruised all over. One doctor, visibly shaken, described it as “gelatinous.” I couldn’t hold my daughter or nurse her or hear her cries, which were silenced by the ventilator. Without it, she couldn’t breathe.

That day, we were told that she had roughly a one-third chance of dying before we could bring her home. That she might not survive one month or one week or one day. She also had at least a one-third chance of being severely disabled, unable to ever lead an independent life.

This baby survived and thrived, good thing the parents were responsible and employed at a firm that had comprehensive employee healthcare benefits, huh?

But about those benefits: AOL could have bought a traditional group insurance policy from any of dozens of giant insurance companies begging for their business, but they chose to self insure, no doubt in the belief it would save them money — and it may have saved them money over the years. But most large companies that choose that route hedge their exposure with a reinsurance policy that caps out expenses at somewhere around half a million dollars per case. The two costly babies Armstrong threw under the bus, perhaps violating HIPPA privacy rules in the process, purportedly cost more, over a million.

AOL executive management chose to reinsure, and then they didn’t hedge wisely in retrospect (Or Armstrong was lying). In short, AOL made a wager and they either lost, or it did work and Armstrong was trying to shift blame for his company’s decision to change the matching 401-k contribution schedule anyway. Giving this overpaid serial bumbler the benefit of the doubt and assuming he was telling the truth about his company’s health insurance expenses, how that bad bet is the fault of employees, who simply paid their health insurance premiums like any other worker at a large company, is beyond me or anyone else.

But I’d say the parents in both cases have one hell of a civil lawsuit to consider against the guy who bagged $12 million in one year alone, and shareholders have a decision to make about just how much more bad PR they’re willing to risk with CEO Tim Armstrong..


  1. Wylann says

    While I support many aspects of the ‘free market’, I have always strongly supported strong state and federal regulations for environmental reasons, mostly. I’m beginning to think we need to add some language to the Fair Labor Standards act that caps how much of a step there can be between various job levels, and between the highest and lowest pay rates. Federal, not state.

  2. unbound says

    To be fair, Tim Armstrong’s biggest crime is that he spoke the corporate PR out to the public. What he said isn’t much different than the BS I get sent from the top-tier management every few months. My own company is self-insured (and we get periodic e-mails mentioning how we should be responsible), but I have no idea if they have reinsurance or not.

    Every now and then, I get asked why I continue to work for this corporation since I speak so negatively, and the response is easy. Name one corporation that is actually functionally different, and I’ll be happy to change jobs. I’ve never run into someone at my level in another corporation that doesn’t immediately shut up. We all know, deep down, that all the large corporations are the same in this regard.

  3. roggg says

    So, paying employees the benefits that are promised to them as part of their employment contract is a drain on corporate coffers? Who would have thought compensation costs money?

  4. pixiedust says

    About 20 years ago my spouse and I were going through infertility treatment. I was with a large corporation that self-insured. My “description of benefits” booklet said, on page 6, that there was a $10,000 cap on fertility procedures. On page 11, it said there was a $10,000 cap on injectable drugs for infertility treatment. Since English is my native language, I understood that there was $20,000 worth of coverage but there were sub-caps on a) procedures and b) injectable drugs. I couldn’t claim $20,000 for just drugs or just procedures.

    Naturally, I was wrong. As the service rep said, she could see how I might have misunderstood the “description of benefits” but really, I should have called for clarification if I had had any questions. Naturally, I pointed out that I hadn’t called because I didn’t have any questions. The “description of benefits” cleared stated $10,000 for procedures and $10,000 for injectable drugs. A procedure isn’t a drug; a drug isn’t a procedure. The statements were 5 pages apart in the benefits booklet.

    A verbal tussle ensued. Senior managers were brought in. Finally, one of the most senior managers ended the argument by saying to me: 1) All you have is “description of benefits”. That is trumped by the actual benefit policy. If there is a conflict, the actual benefits policy takes precedence. And when I asked for the benefits policy, I got 2) there is no booklet; and part 3) We’re self-insured so you don’t have any rights to anything unless we say so anyway. You medical benefits are not protected by law.

    A few months later, the corporation mailed a slick, glossy, full-color, multi-page document to tens of thousands of employees nationwide correcting a few “confusingly worded” sections of the description of benefits. I left that corporation within 6 months.

  5. lanir says

    You would think that, aside from a disproportionately large salary which dwarfs the examples, it would become obvious that if you’re stuck reneging on deals to pay debts you’ve incurred, you’ve obviously screwed up financially. Finance. Not healthcare. Finance.

    Who in that room would have the most control over the company’s finances? I’m betting I know and I’m pretty sure it’s the biggest asshole in the room.

  6. smhll says

    Self-insurance provides a fairly strong incentive to discriminate in hiring to hire younger employees and employees who won’t be gestating their own offspring. (That is, AOL should hurry to insist that employee spouses with jobs must be covered by their own employers, not AOL. Then AOL should stack the deck by hiring mostly men.)

    Babies are cuter and inspire more internet clicks than middle aged folks. But let’s take a minute to imagine the optics if the corporate spokesperson got up and said “All right, which of you assholes had the nerve to get cancer last year.”

  7. Pen says

    I can’t believe premature babies haven’t been dying in the US because of the lack of affordable health care. Or suffering avoidable brain damage and developing disabilities they need not have had, because you really have to keep them oxygenated. I hope things will be improving in the future though I suspect the poorest Americans still have no coverage?

  8. Emptyell says

    There is an alternative. I work for a company that is 100% employee owned. The healthcare is top notch (if I get sick with something unusual they will fly me to the best doctor in the country and the most I would pay is about $1500), and we retire a lot of millionaires. Of course we are not making anybody obscenely rich so there is that.

  9. Orakio says

    There is a joint federal/state program for socialized insurance of the poorest of the poor, Medicaid. Unfortunately, this program is administered by the states, and in many states with more Republican influence on government, it is functionally impossible to enroll. The program was supposed to be expanded, but the Supreme Court said that the expansion could be refused by the individual states. Of course, the states with some of the poorest populaces and worst Medicare coverage have refused to expand the program. This is deliberate, and based on the philosophy that if you punish people for being poor, they’ll stop being poor.

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