Ok, we already know that United HealthCare, Anthem/Wellpont and other insurance conglomerates are using your health insurance premiums to "help" their employees lobby Congress against consumer-friendly health reforms. But Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina used your premium dollars in an even more irritating and likely illegal way: political robocalls against health reform, probably at dinnertime. (Hat tip to TPM)
But here’s the most startling thing: The company has a monopoly on individual health insurance policies in the state. No wonder Blue Cross Blue Shield hates the idea of a publicly backed health insurance option. It would offer a little free-market competition in the broken, abusive individual market, where insurers decline to cover you, deny treatment, cancel policies almost at will and spend the least on actual health care.
North Carolina legislators wrote a letter requesting a criminal investigation of the robocalls, which urged North Carolinians to call Sen. Kay Hagan and demand that she vote against the "public option." (A modest version of that option is in the health bill being debated in the Senate):
Here’s the interesting market share number, from the lawmakers’ letter:
[G]iven BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina ‘s status as a
not-for-profit with a share of 96.8% in our individual insurance market
built on over 60 years of preferred tax exemptions, we are concerned as
a matter of public policy and ethical business practices that they have
inappropriately engaged in political advocacy. As a corporation that
claims to deliver innovative health care products and services to its
members, BlueCross BlueShield appears to be engaging in a blatant
political campaign utilizing the premiums paid by their customers.
Yep, that’s pretty much the argument. And it turns out the state Attorney General was already investigating. I suspect that a few people about to sit down for dinner made the mistake of answering the phone, and were mad enough to call the law and complain. If this is what consumers get from a nonprofit health insurer, how can we not love the public option? Especially because it’d be forbidden to spend your money on this kind of garbage.