Saturday, October 31, 2009


If you're hoping for meaningful health care reform, you've got to like this story.  Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina recently sent out a mailer to voters in the state urging them to send an enclosed pre-printed, postage-paid card to Senator Kay Hagen asking her to oppose any government-run health care program that would compete with private insurers.  The punch line?  They sent out this mailer at the same time that they sent out a notice to customers that their premiums would be increased by an average of 11% next year.

The Raleigh News and Observer picks up the story...

Indignant Blue Cross customers have rebelled against the insurer's message, complaining that their premium dollars have funded such a campaign.

They've hit the Internet in a flurry of e-mails to friends and neighbors throughout the state. They've called Hagan's office to voice support for a public option. They've marked through the Blue Cross message on their postcards to instead vouch support, then dropped them in the mail -- in at least one case taped to a brick -- to be paid on Blue Cross' dime. Or dimes...

Lew Borman, a Blue Cross spokesman, said he wasn't sure how many people got the flier urging them to contact Hagan, but he said the mailing relied on voter registration records, not a customer list.

Since the company controls more than half of the state's health insurance market, there was unavoidable overlap.

Borman declined to reveal how much money the insurer paid for the mailing. Blue Cross is a nonprofit, so its finances are not as open as public companies.

He acknowledged the timing was unfortunate, coming as the firm typically sends its annual notices about rate increases. But he said the two mailings were coincidental, hinged to current events in Washington.

"We said from the beginning we were going to be involved and would tell North Carolinians what kind of impact the health-care proposals would have, and that's what we've been doing," Borman said.

Jenny Warburg, a freelance photojournalist in Durham, said she wishes she could switch insurance carriers over the issue, but no other company will cover her.

So she's stuck, and that makes her even madder.

"You're over a barrel," she said. "You have no choice."

And that, she said, is exactly what Blue Cross is eager to protect.

Cross-posted at Meanwhile...

posted at 4:53:00 PM by Duane Tate

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