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Workers urge Blue Cross to back health reform

Posted July 15, 2009

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— State employees rallied Wednesday morning outside the headquarters of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, urging the state's largest insurer to back nationwide health-care reform instead of fighting it.

Members of the State Employees Association of North Carolina lined U.S. Highway 15/501, chanting and waving signs supporting the so-called "public option" that President Barack Obama has proposed as a guaranteed backstop to ensure all Americans have health insurance.

State workers rally at Blue Cross Blue Cross says it does back health reform

The employees said insurance premiums are so expensive that they can't afford health coverage for their spouses or children. They said the public option would lower costs.

"We have families who are spending $500 and $600 a month for health care insurance, and they are only bringing home maybe $1,500, $1,600 a month," state employee Doris Daye said.

Cheryl Moon said her boyfriend's medical bills are so high they are looking at filing for bankruptcy protection.

"If we had an option, we might be able to choose a plan that's more adequate for what he needs," said Moon, a retired state worker.

Blue Cross officials have said they support health care reform, but they believe a public option would price them out of business by underpaying providers and passing that cost along to the private insurers.

"They should not stand in the way of meaningful, affordable health care reform in the country," said Dana Cope, SEANC executive director. "North Carolina's Blue Cross Blue Shield is leading the national effort against President Obama's health-reform plan, and that's a shame."

Barbara Morales Burke, Blue Cross vice president for health policy, said Cope and the state workers are misinterpreting the company's position.

"We're not saying 'not the Obama plan,'" Burke said. "We are not in favor of a government option – a government insurance option – but we are in favor of many things that I understand to be part of the Obama plan, which (are) covering everyone, promoting quality and containing costs."

She said more than two dozen insurers already provide health coverage in North Carolina, so the state doesn't need a public option.

"I'm not sure what one more choice would do," she said.

Dr. Gustavo Montana, a radiation oncologist, said he thinks the nation should move away from a health insurance system largely funded by employers. Many patients who are unemployed or work part time can't get coverage, he said.

"Employment used to be a more secure, if you will, thing for people," Montana said.

Burke said the solution is not for the government to provide health care, but to subsidize it in some instances to make it more affordable.

"That's where we think the role of government comes in – to assist people who can't afford today to buy coverage," she said. "If we get everyone covered and do nothing else, then we will have a system that will blow up."

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  • scarletindurham Jul 16, 2009

    State Employees don't pay for premiums for themselves, and their premiums for their families are around the same as everyone else who has an employer purchased health plan. State employees have better benefits than BCBS employees. Give me a break. Is anyone else sick of the constant whining of State employees? Welcome to the rest of the world.

  • jet2rdu Jul 16, 2009

    In many cases, BCBS or other major medical plans just act as the medical plan administrator for large companies and government agencies medical plans. That is, BCBS handles the administrative medical paperwork, negotiates payment discounts with providers, reviews and pays bills. They then pass the costs plus their about 1% administrative fee back to the company or agency. The company or agency sets the rates charged to their employees not BCBS. If the company or agency wants to pay more for their plan then they will reduce the cost, or lower deductibles to their employees. On the other hand, if they want to break even or even make a profit on their medical plan they can raise rates or deductibles. Very few companies and agencies fully explain to their employees the true financial accounting of their medical plans. It takes the pressure off the companies or agencies if they can imply to the employee BCBS is the source of costs, denials, coverage and other problems.

  • Mr Douglas Jul 15, 2009

    Having worked in state government for over five years, I've seen many obese employees at work who do little or nothing to curb their weight and their lunch time appetites. Many of them still smoke too. I always find it amazing how people can't afford health care, but they can afford cartons of cigarettes and gluttonous, fattening meals, not to mention overpriced, gas guzzling behemoths, which they use to haul their lard around in. Government sponsored health care is not the answer. If passed, it will be the problem. SEANC should concentrate on getting things like bereavement time for state employees instead of leading useless rallies on health care reform, which they know little or nothing about.

  • viking416 Jul 15, 2009

    seaturtlesrule,

    You hit the nail on the head...deny a 17yo surgery and you make your number....back then and now it is the motivator for BCBS. For their sick clients up their rates and deny their claims...it is bad in so many ways

  • seaturtlesrule Jul 15, 2009

    OUR NATIONAL HEALTHCARE PLAN: DON'T GET SICK!!!~~~

    rip

  • seaturtlesrule Jul 15, 2009

    I've had two experiences in my life with NC BlueCross/BlueShield - both very bad. At 17 (under my grandfather's BC/BS coverage; our family was upper-middle class then) I was hospitalized with acute appendicitis and had surgery at WMC. NC BC/BS - wait for it! - denied coverage for anything because I had a "pre-existing condition"! As an RNC,BSN today, I realize that their claim was ridiculous and an outright lie! I remember asking my now deceased Grandaddy, "Why do you PAY for this health insurance? What's it for?!"

    In my early 40's (now middle-class/middle-aged) I tried to obtain coverage from a rep. of NC BC/BS who knew my family. She was honest and told me that since I had just been diagnosed with high blood pressure, my premiums would be more than my monthly pmts. on my apt.!
    She estimated ($550-$700/month). What if I had had diabetes or MS? I was not obese. How can any hard working-class family afford this rip-off?! They can't. And they die earlier than they should.

  • methinkthis Jul 15, 2009

    The lament of the state employees is exactly why the Democratic proposal is doomed to failure. The state employees are complaining about the cost of their insurance. So they think that they will jump from the state plan to the Obama, suppose to be backstop, plan. So the backstop plan is no longer a backstop, it is where everyone wants to be because initially it is cheaper. However, it is not sized to cover all the people. Once everyone jumps to it, it crashes and requires huge funding increases (that is huge tax increases) and requires reduction in services covered. The writing is on the wall. Most of you crying for salvation via Pelosi/Obama will end up not getting a medical treatment you need because the plan is busted. You won't have another choice. Can a 65 year old person choose something other than medicare? When I turn 65 I am forced to make medicare primary and my retirement insurance secondary even though my current insurance is quite good. No choice! Forced degradation.

  • THE ETERNAL Jul 15, 2009

    We have no health care in America; we only have sick care.We should take responsibility for our own health, which includes organic food, herbs,clean water and minerals.

  • seaturtlesrule Jul 15, 2009

    As a nurse, I worked for years with top-notch Canadian nurses at WMC. Not one of them had anything bad to say about their health-care system. In fact, they would hate to get sick HERE! And I'm talking about approximately 30-40 intelligent young men and women...

    By the way, even though they were paid bonuses (and more than American nurses!) after their contract (1 yr. - 3 yrs) was up...none of them stayed on. They all went home to clean, safe and healthy Canada~~~

    Moderate Republican RN

  • viking416 Jul 15, 2009

    Wow....My Canadian Father last month waited 2 days for an MRI. I guess he was an special case? Truth is if a Canadian doctor thinks you need an MRI you get it pronto! If you decide "you" want an MRI you have to wait in the queue....that is how that works

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