Anthem Blue Cross: Screwing Californians for Profits

Posted by robertgreenwald on February 11, 2010 | 12:34 pm
Anthem Blue Cross is spending millions on executive salaries and lobby efforts against healthcare reform — and how are they paying for it? By forcing 39% increases on their policy holders in California.

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Rockefeller, Harkin Sparring With Insurance Industry
Posted by David Dayen on November 4, 2009 | 6:45 pm
Senate Democrats are trying to extract some embarrassing information from the insurance industry about their deceptive practices.

First, Tom Harkin, who is seeking to subpoena insurers for failing to provide information requested by his committee.

Harkin, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said his committee may demand information from health insurance companies about the reasoning for steep increases in premiums faced by small businesses.

“I’ve been inundated with letters and information about the exorbitant increases in premiums for small businesses in this country,” Harkin said during an appearance on MSNBC. “I asked them to come and testify at a hearing I had yesterday. They refused.”

“So now I’m asking them to give us information on which we can make some decisions on why these premiums are going up so much for small businesses,” he added.

Here’s the video:

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Jay Rockefeller also wants some information about the industry’s “medical loss ratio,” and how they cook the books to pretend that they spend a substantial amount of premium money on treatment and care.

The New York Times reports: “The health insurance industry likes to cite figures showing that 87 cents of every dollar in premiums is spent on medical claims. But a new Senate analysis suggests that for-profit insurance companies are spending much less than that, especially for policies sold to individuals and small businesses. Instead, as little as 66 cents of each dollar paid in premiums goes toward doctor and hospital bills, while the rest covers administrative expenses, marketing and company profits, according to the analysis. …. The [health reform] legislation that may reach the House floor later this week would initially require insurers to spend at least 85 cents of every dollar in premiums on medical claims.”

A long-standing complaint from individuals and small businesses is that they get less for their money. “But insurance companies generally do not disclose how much they spend in different segments of the market. The Senate analysis of the figures does not include information from California, because that state’s filings are not available through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. … The insurance industry’s trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, said Monday that the 87-cent figure it cited as the industry average was based on information collected by the federal government and was an accurate reflection of how much of each dollar in premiums was spent on medical claims.” (Abelson, 11/2).

This comes at a time when the Senate is about to unveil their health care bill. This information could be crucial to massing public opinion against the industry and keeping the entire Democratic caucus on board with reform.

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Repealing Insurance Industry’s Anti-Trust Exemption In House Bill
Posted by David Dayen on October 30, 2009 | 8:48 am
Ryan Grim reported yesterday that Harry Reid decided to leave out the repeal of the insurance industry’s anti-trust exemption from the Senate health care bill, preferring to include it as an amendment on the floor. However, the House bill does include repeal, albeit the partial one that passed the Judiciary Committee and not the full repeal of the exemption that some Democrats sought. The narrow-cast repeal in the House bill refers specifically to “price fixing, market allocation, or monopolization.” This would enable the Justice Department to go after monopolistic practices in the health insurance or the medical malpractice insurance market in the states. While CBO basically said that this would have a minimal effect, it would put those engaged in corrupt practices either in jail or out of business, which is preferable to the alternative.

The fact that the House will embed, and probably pass, this repeal makes its ultimate survival in conference pretty good, since we know Harry Reid, who testified in its favor, is a supporter. He may not have wanted to introduce something in the blend of the bills that didn’t appear in either of them, but that won’t be the case in the conference committee.

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Today In Anti-Insurance Industry Musical Parodies And Talking Babies
Posted by David Dayen on October 23, 2009 | 3:36 pm
Here’s some amusing video from the group “Billionaires for Wealthcare” as they crashed the AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans) conference today. Pollster Bill McInturf initially took their mocking “thank you for all the good work you do” as a compliment, and then the group broke into song, a parody of “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie, with lyrics like “the option, the option, the public wants options, without it it’s a giveaway!”

Sam Stein had a piece on this earlier.

In other creative anti-insurance company activism, Americans United For Change has released a video highlighting this peculiar tendency from insurers of late to deny babies health coverage because of their weight, whether they be too skinny or too fat. The video features “Patriot Baby,” a talking prodigy, hitting the industry for their tactics.

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Michelle Obama Deployed In Health Care Debate
Posted by David Dayen on October 23, 2009 | 12:48 pm
The White House just released a video first lady Michelle Obama, focusing on health care and gender disparity. She tells a personal story about her daughter and a bout with meningitis, and what that might have looked like if the family didn’t have insurance. She includes a story of medical bankruptcy and a woman denied health insurance for a pre-existing condition. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also appears in the piece, explaining that insurance companies can charge women substantially more than men, can choose not to cover services women need, and can even deny coverage over things like domestic violence.

This new layer of the health care debate is undeniably compelling. Insurance industry discrimination against women ought to be completely intolerable.

The video premiered on the site iVillage.com. The site is also taking questions for the White House on health reform.

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