Local News

N.C. insurance giant opposes Obama's health plan

Posted May 19, 2009 6:32 p.m. EDT
Updated May 20, 2009 10:11 a.m. EDT

— The state's largest health insurance provider is stepping into the national health-care debate, saying the president's national health insurance plan could have a negative impact on quality care and its bottom line.

Company spokesman Lew Borman said Tuesday that although Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina supports the concept of health-care reform with affordable access for everyone, the company believes a government program could force out private insurers.

"We're concerned about what it means, as to how it would impact our business," Borman said. "How level would the playing field be?"

President Barack Obama has said that one of the top priorities for his administration is to provide affordable, accessible health coverage to every American – more than 45 million are without it, including 1.5 million people in North Carolina.

Details have not been worked out, but Obama has maintained that a government-run plan could be more affordable for Americans who have trouble purchasing insurance. He has said he expects to have federal legislation passed by the end of this year.

Blue Cross Blue Shield N.C. has hired Raleigh public relations firm Capstrat Media to create several videos for a new Web site, scheduled to launch next month.

The insurance provider said the site will be a resource for people on how a new health-care system would potentially provide patients with fewer choices and lower quality care.

Adam Searing, of the North Carolina Justice Center's Health Access Coalition, said he believes patients will have more choices and that Blue Cross and other private insurers will face more regulation.

"They want to protect the millions of dollars they're making and the millions of dollars the executives are making in salary," Searing said. "They're afraid of change. They don't want it to happen.

Randy Seiver, an out-of-work IT professional supports Obama's plan for universal health coverage.

Having searched for more than a year for a job that provides health benefits, he said something must happen to help Americans.

"This country is about profit, but there is something between profit and ripping people off," he said.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C. has about 3.7 million members. In 2007, it paid 41.8 million claims valued at $9.4 billion, according to its Web site.