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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

BCBS Talking Out of Both Sides of Their Mouths

Not many days ago on May 11, executives from health insurance companies, hospitals, the AMA, and other players in the health industry met with President Obama to announce their initiative and cooperation in cutting the rising costs of health care in the U.S. They said they would voluntarily work to reduce the rate of growth of health care costs in coming years. Everyone knew that it was not an extensive promise, but it was something. If nothing else, it was their effort to "get on the team" so that they could have some influence in the decisions about health reform.

By May 15, they were already trying to take it back. They said that President Obama had overstated their pledges. Although the letter they wrote and signed says they will act in support of the goal to reduce the rate of growth of health care costs by 1.5% per year, the New York Times reports they say they did not mean they would support this as a yearly reduction. I read the letter. Any reader would agree that they did say what they now claim they did not say.

Today, the Washington Post reported that the high-profit non-profit, BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina, is putting together a slick media campaign to oppose one of the key elements of the health reform proposal: a public insurance option, especially for those whose employers do not provide quality health insurance as a benefit, but for anyone who chooses to enroll in it.

That got my goat. My health insurance premiums keep going up. My wife's premiums are skyrocketing, and BCBS has a contract to manage her State Employees' Plan. BCBS of NC has been in hot water for the huge amounts of profit and bonuses to executives they achieve as a non-profit with protected tax status. And now they want to spend the money they are squeezing out of us to make sure that the health care industry can continue to operate without serious competition.

The only competition in the industry is between giant corporations who "wink-wink" compete for big contracts that leave average people like me with no choices about health care. In addition, when our kids get out on their own and take entry-level jobs, they get offered insurance packages that have coverage caps of only $10k to $15k.

So this is the state of health care in our society. Waiting in the emergency room takes longer than watching a feature film at the cinema. More people die of medical mistakes than in auto accidents each year. More people died from lack of health insurance than from homicide last year.

I went to the BCBS of NC website to figure out how to offer a complaint about this ad campaign. I finally settled on the web form to report possible fraud and abuse. I listed BlueCross BlueShield of NC as the one committing the potential abuse. Then I wrote the following.

The Washington Post reported today that BCBS is planning to spend my premiums to run a media campaign opposing real options in health insurance. If the insurance industry is serious about reducing costs, then the best way to do that is to make sure that people whose companies cannot or do not offer quality insurance plans have access to a public insurance plan. Otherwise, the quasimonopoly will continue and many who can't afford health care will pay with their livelihood and health while the rest of us will pay higher premiums.

Give people choices.

DO NOT SPEND OUR HEALTH CARE PREMIUMS ON A SMEAR CAMPAIGN. This is not what I am paying you for. Save that money and reduce our premiums.

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