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Group targets Blue Cross in Beltline billboard

Posted September 22, 2009

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— The national debate over health care reform reached new heights in Raleigh Tuesday when a group put up a billboard blasting Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.

The billboard, one of three nationwide paid for by Health Care for America NOW, features a cemetery filled with blue crosses under the heading "Health Coverage Denied."

Blue Cross protest Protesters claim Blue Cross denies coverage

Protesters, who held demonstrations outside Blue Cross' headquarters in Chapel Hill and near the site of the billboard along the Interstate 440 Beltline in Raleigh, said they believe Blue Cross is spending more than $640,000 a day to fight health care reform and is denying people's medical claims at the same time.

"We feel, if the insurance company wins, all of us will lose," protest organizer Lynice Williams said.

About 150 protests were held nationwide Tuesday. Health Care for America NOW is a grassroots group that counts organizations from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to the Sanderson High School Young Democrats among its supporters.

"I don't believe that the people that are for real reform have had an adequate voice," protester Jim Potter said. "We are definitely not trying to cut off debate. We just want to have our voices heard."

Potter has a son with cerebral palsy and said his insurance premiums skyrocketed by 700 percent when he moved from New Jersey to North Carolina.

Blue Cross denies the protesters' allegations. Spokesman Lew Borman said North Carolina's largest insurer processes more than 138,000 claims a day and denies very few.

Borman couldn't give precise numbers, but the state Department of Insurance said there have been 1,215 complaints about denied health claims by all insurance companies since the beginning of 2008.

"These are real serious issues. It is a serious discussion. It's not about bumper stickers and billboards," Borman said. "What does that billboard do to move health reform forward?"

Health Care for America NOW supports the controversial "public option" that President Barack Obama has called for to ensure all Americans have health coverage. The proposal would create a government-sponsored health plan for people who can't obtain private insurance.

Blue Cross wants to see universal coverage but supports government subsidies for people who can't afford insurance rather than the public option plan.

"The vast majority of the things the president has been talking about are things that we at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina firmly support," Borman said.

The billboard will remain near the U.S. Highway 64 interchange along the Beltline for up for two weeks. Health Care for America NOW paid $10,500 for the billboard and similar signs in Wilmington, Del., and Little Rock, Ark.

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  • kitty123 Sep 24, 2009

    BCBS just doesn't like to pay claims. The claims might impact their bottom line. I have BCBS through my employer and they don't even like to pay for preventative annual physicals. I had to fight them just to get them to pay for that. Four months and many phone calls later and they finally paid up.

  • Burger Sep 23, 2009

    I payed into Blue Cross for 10 years. When I ruptured a disk in my back and needed surgery they dropped me. I was injured in an accident, which to Blue Cross was a pre-existing condition. A 10yr old pre-existing accidental ruptured disk. It cost me $20,000 to get out of my medical debts.

  • delilahk2000 Sep 23, 2009

    CAROLINA FAN YOU SAID A MOUTHFUL, I AM IN THE SAME BOAT, MINE ALSO GOES UP EVERY JAN. AND FOR NO REASON. I AM HEALTHY AND DO NOT ABUSE THE SYSTEM BUT YET I AM BEING PRICE GOUGED. THEY ARE NO WAYS AS GOOD AS THEY WERE 30YRS AGO. NOW IT SEEMS TO BE ALL ABOUT THE PROFITS AND THE HECK WITH US.

  • exteacher Sep 23, 2009

    To Affirmative Diversity:
    Do you work at BCBS and have access to all their money and where it is spent? They haven't given MILLIONS to Kay Hagan or anyone else. Hello!!! Wake up!!! That is just SLIGHTLY against the law, to say nothing about its being STUPID.
    And since they are not exactly in the same camp as Obama on the health reform (agree with parts but not all), why would they be giving money for that??? Who would they give it to?? You just amaze me with your sweeping generalizations and comments that are NOT based on ANY factual information at all.
    If you want to know where BCBS stands on all of this, read Bob Greczyn's op-ed in today's News and Observer. You might actually learn something.

  • Ken D. Sep 23, 2009

    "Where did you get your data?"

    On short notice, I can't find the original article I cited (it was an article in a medical malpractice industry magazine and it took me quite a while to find the right combination of keywords to google). A different source, an article published in Best's Review in 2005, can be found at http://www.thefreelibrary.com. They report the aggregate premium number as slightly lower than the $12 Billion I cited, but that could just be due to rounding.

    The point is that whether the "true" number is $10 Billion, or $12 Billion or $15 Billion, it is small in comparison to the $2.1 Trillion we spent on health care that year.

  • Ken D. Sep 23, 2009

    "Did you know the United States is ranked 37th in quality of health care by the World Health Organization."

    This is a very subjective "rating", which the WHO no longer attempts because it is to hard to compare the apples and oranges that are the world's different systems. It is impossible to objectively say which is "best". But if we are paying twice as much per capita as, say, England, it is hard to argue that we are getting twice the "value" in the form of better care or outcomes.

    However you might define "units" of health care services, the fact is we pay a higher price per unit - by far - than any other OECD country. Something has to account for the difference. High physician income, very high administrative costs, and provider/insurer profits are in all likelihood the biggest reasons for the difference.

  • ranquick Sep 23, 2009

    Well I am one against reform by the Government, WE pay medicare now and what for????I just can't see paying the government more for something I will never get.

  • affirmativediversity Sep 23, 2009

    Ken B,

    So what you are saying is that, on average, each State's entire payout for health care lawsuits is 80 Million per year (that includes both in and out of court settlements)?

    Yeah, right...

    Where did you get your data?

  • affirmativediversity Sep 23, 2009

    Professor posted, "I HOPE WE GET BETTER STORIES TOMORROW INSTEAD OF THE TIRED OLD SAME STORIES"

    _--------

    I'm with you there! I wonder who on WRAL is related to one of the 4 or 5 Employee Association yahoos who appear to get an inordinate amount of coverage compared to the complete lack of support from "their supposed members".

    Here's my theory...besides someone at WRAL being related to these yahoos...WRAL just like all the rest of the MSM are finding it harder and harder to spin this stuff the far left DEM way.
    Its not just conservatives like me that are up in arms anymore...its a ever growing section of independents and moderate Democrats that do not like the hijack job going on.

    So since they still refuse to actually cover these issues in a neutral way...they opt NOT TO COVER some at all and to limit other coverage to ultra fringe nutjob groups like this one.

    WRAL didn't even mention that BCBC is actually spending MILLIONS promoting KAY HAGAN and OBAMACARE!

  • Ken D. Sep 23, 2009

    "Ken D...why don't you give people the ENTIRE PICTURE, instead of your pc sliver of it?"

    I'm not sure what political correctness has to do with malpractice data. It is certainly true that malpractice premiums are higher in total than malpractice awards. In 2004, the most recent year for which I could find aggregate data, the total premiums paid by or for all providers of medical services, including hospitals and clinics, was about $12 Billion. All awards paid out, including jury awards as well as negotiated settlements, totaled about $4 Billion. The rest presumably went to pay the admin costs and profits of the insurance companies.

    Precise numbers are hard to come by, due to the complex maze that is our health care system. And while nobody should argue that $12 Billion is not a lot of money, the point is that even if those costs were zero, US health care costs would still be huge compared with other OECD countries.

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