And now it can be told: Yes, Virginia, health insurance CEOs are making huge amounts of money while their firms rapidly increase premiums and work diligently to find ways to not pay for their customers’ care. From the Washington Post:

The chief executive of UnitedHealth Group, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, reaped almost $100 million from exercising stock options last year, the company reported Thursday.

Stephen J. Hemsley exercised 4.9 million options in February 2009 at a gain of $98.6 million, the company said in a regulatory filing. The options were awarded almost a decade earlier.

After using some of the shares to pay for the transactions and cover related taxes, Hemsley held onto the stock he acquired instead of cashing it in, the company reported.

Thank god Democrats did not add a public option to their health care reform bill. It might have depressed UnitedHealth Group’s stock prices, and their poor CEO might have only gotten, gosh, $65 million from his stock options. Democrats should be so proud they did not give people even the option of cutting out this unneeded middleman, and all that extra money can go to Mr. Hemsely and his friends, rather than save the federal government and individual customers hundreds of billions.

I’m sure once we are all forced to buy private health insurance from companies still protected from federal anti-trust laws or public competition, our premium dollars will then actually go to cover sick people’s medical care instead even larger compensation packages for executives.

I think Ben Nelson (D-NE), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), the whole Republican caucus, President Obama, who decided to not fight for a public option, and everyone else in Washington who shares responsibility for killing the public option deserves a nice big campaign contribution from Hemsley.

Let’s keep watching to see if Mr. Hemsley shows appropriate gratitude.