We’re enjoying a splendid spring scandal here in Western Pennsylvania too delicious to keep to ourselves.
It involves Dr. Ken Melani, the married 58-year-old now-former CEO of Highmark insurance and Melissa Myler, a 28-year-old also-married lovely whose chief credential at securing employment with an insurance conglomerate appears to have been an ability to navigate a golf cart.
As he until 24-hours ago was earning $4.5 million a year to preside over a $14.6 billion industry titan that makes life-and-death snap judgements based on indifferent data and patient charts, let me make a couple of snap judgements on Melani and Myler.
He’s an arrogant prick and she’s a shallow tramp.
I must first confess my bias against the insurance industry and anyone adept at helping it increase its already obscene profits. The health care industry suffers from many colossal failings and greed is at the heart of most of them.
Still, I’m fairly confident about my diagnosis of Melani. He looks and is acting like someone who felt his millions should insulate him from conventional behavior.
And, really, who could blame him? Up until last week when he was arrested for assaulting his mistress’s husband on their porch, it was all working out pretty swell. Highmark canned him Sunday, a move that led one newspaper to say he’d suffered “a spectacular fall from grace.”
I’m still researching to see if his wife, still steadfast it seems, is actually named Grace.
Up until last week he’d been shacking up with the comely Myler in a luxury riverfront apartment. Reports on what she did at Highmark -- besides Melani, of course -- are sketchy.
Melani had her hired in October as a “business analyst 1,” a position Highmark says requires at least a few years of experience. She must have been a quick study because previous to this she was the part-time operations manager for a Pittsburgh-area golf tournament.
Police reports said three weeks after he hired her for a job that pays between $38,000 and $58,000 the two began their affair. I guess in these days three weeks qualifies as playing hard to get.
From those humble beginnings she in January spearheaded a $15 million promotional sponsorship with the PGA Tour. The deal was hefty enough that Highmark’s board of directors was supposed to approve it before it went through.
They did not.
It’s something to think about next time your Highmark premium is due or your school district raises taxes citing ever-escalating insurance obligations.
It all began to unravel when she learned that Melani, suddenly suspicious of motives, hired a private investigator to dig into her background, expecting to find, I guess, something more salacious than unreplaced fairway divots.
The investigation hurt her feelings and drove her back to her husband, causing Melani to go berserk and confront the pair. A fight ensued, police were summoned and the doctor, from the back of the cruiser, tried to gain sympathy by examining the soul of arresting officer David Brankley.
“He asked me in an emotional voice if I’d ever had a relationship that was everything to me,” Brankley wrote, adding he “declined to answer.”
Oh, how I wish Brankley had responded in song with a tuneful soliloquy about a heartache he’d dare not revealed since that prom night long ago!
It’ll be interesting to see what’s next for the now disgraced Melani, freshly unshackled from that $4.5 million annual salary.
I once wrote a story about an old doctor so country he accepted live chickens from farmer patients in lieu of traditional payment. The only thing that kept it from being one of my favorites was I couldn’t get him to say he gave fresh eggs for change.
A down home practice like that would do wonders for Melani or anyone in the health care field whose soul’s been corrupted by money.
And that brings me back to my harsh assessments of Melani and Myler. The romantic in me hopes there was a true emotional connection there, but the brain in me says she never would have spent a minute with him if he wasn’t loaded and he never would have had a chance with her if he was a twice-her-age business analyst 1.
So in the end this sordid tale is all about money.
Which makes it for the health insurance industry the perfect love story.
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