Harvard Researchers’ Beef? Insurance Companies Owning Fast Food Stock
Health.com/CNN: "The fast-food industry has long been under fire for selling high-fat, high-calorie meals that have been linked to weight gain and diabetes, but the financial health of the industry continues to attract investors -- including some of the leading insurance companies in the U.S. ... According to Harvard Medical School researchers, 11 large companies that offer life, disability, or health insurance owned about $1.9 billion in stock in the five largest fast-food companies as of June 2009. "
"Insurance companies disputed these figures. Andrea Austin, the assistant director of corporate relations for Northwestern Mutual, in Milwaukee, says the company's investment in fast-food companies is only about $250 million ... about one-fifth of 1 percent of the company's portfolio, she adds. Austin also disagrees that the company's fast-food investments represent a disconnect with its mission. 'We have to determine what's going to give our policy owners value,' she says" (Klein, 4/15).
The Wall Street Journal Health Blog: "Study author J. Wesley Boyd, an attending psychiatrist at [Cambridge Health Alliance] and assistant professor at Harvard, defends the numbers, saying according to the database they were correct. He says the U.S. companies studied were primarily life insurers and don't sell health insurance per se, but that some of the Canadian and U.K. companies covered in the study do sell health insurance" (Hobson, 4/15).
CBS on The American Journal of Public Health study: "The authors write that the recent passage of health care reform will likely expand the reach of the insurance industry, arguing that if insurers are to play a greater role in health care that they should be held to a higher standard of corporate responsibility" (Hartge, 4/15).
AARP Bulletin Today: "Mark Pauly, a professor of health care management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, thinks trying to pressure insurers to divest their fast-food holdings is a bit naive. 'It may be a nice gesture for insurers to say they're not investing in evil things anymore,' he says, 'but it's hard to imagine that it would have a substantial impact.' A better idea, he says, 'would be for the insurance companies to invest a lot more in fast food, then go to the company's annual meeting and get them to change their policies'" (Sagon, 4/15).