AIG: Not just a failed financial giant

Those pesky public journalists at ProPublica, in conjunction with The Los Angeles Times and ABC News’ 20/20, are sniffing around where some would prefer they don’t: This time they’re asking how come insurers of injured civilian workers in such war zones as Iraq and Afghanistan are denying care for these grievously injured people.


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Unlike military personnel, civilian contractors who are wounded in war zones typically don’t go to Walter Reed or other government-run facilities. Many times, the wounded civilians are on their own when they lose limbs and eyes or suffer devastating brain injuries from bombs and bullet wounds.

Curiously, one of the most prominent alleged offenders is AIG, the same insurance giant that made headlines as a chief culprit in the economic crisis that has engulfed much of the world in the last year or so.

Not all of AIG hemorrhaged money in that meltdown. In fact, says ProPublica, this operation made tons of money:

“The insurance companies responsible for their treatment under taxpayer-funded policies have routinely denied the most serious medical claims. Those insurers — primarily American International Group (AIG) — recorded hundreds of millions of dollars in profits on this business.”

Contractors would lure workers with promises of lucrative deals to work in Iraq or Afghanistan. Then they get hurt.

From ProPublica: ” ‘It’s almost like we’re this invisible, discardable military. Once we’ve done our jobs, they can actually sidetrack us and not worry about us anymore,’ said Tim Newman, a sheriff’s deputy from South Carolina who lost his leg to a roadside bomb in Baghdad. Once back home, he fought an insurance company for a year to get a prosthetic leg that his doctors recommended.

” ‘It’s like we’re disposable soldiers,’ said Newman, 44, who worked on a police training program in Iraq.”

These journalists were in Los Angeles and Washington, as well as other parts of the nation, including Newman in South Carolina. That stuff doesn’t happen by itself. It takes a lot of people working behind the scenes, it takes a lot of ground work, research, grunt work, skilled writers and photogs and editors. Without all that work, this story doesn’t get told and hundreds or thousands (or millions) of people get screwed by the rich and powerful.

This is why journalism matters. Good journalism ferrets out the truth, digs up uncomfortable facts and exposes bad behavior.

The government won’t do this, at least not without prodding from journalists and others.

The corporations sure won’t do it.

Who, then?

Pain-in-the-ass journalists, that’s who.

This is why newspapers, TV and radio news and new hybrid endeavors are worth whatever it takes to keep them going. Remake them, make them more cost-effective, but don’t stop them from doing what they do. Because if they stop, who will shine a light on what’s going on?


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