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Fliers fly in health care reform debate

Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C. and a group representing state workers are sending out dueling mailers to outline positions in the national debate over health care reform.

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The national debate over health care reform has never been black and white, but it's now very much in print.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and a group representing state workers are sending out dueling mailers to outline their respective positions in the debate.

"We hope that people take a good look at what we are saying," Blue Cross spokesman Lew Borman said.

The state's largest health insurer mailed its fliers last month, saying the company supports reform but opposes the controversial "public option" proposal, which would create a government-sponsored program where people who can't get coverage elsewhere could buy insurance.

Blue Cross and other insurers say a government program would siphon off customers and drive up their operating costs.

The fliers, which included a detachable card that people could send to U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan to voice their opinion on reform, weren't sent to a Blue Cross customer list. Rather, recipients were picked using voter registration data.

"As a business practice, we won't talk about how many went out," Borman said, also declining to discuss how much Blue Cross spent on the direct-mail lobbying effort.

Some Blue Cross customers who received the fliers received notice of a premium increase from the insurer about a week earlier.

"We think that's immoral. It's ludicrous, and we are going to work very hard to fight the big insurance company here in North Carolina," said Dana Cope, executive director of the State Employees Association of North Carolina.

SEANC, which backs a public option, is spending about $17,000 to mail its own literature to its members, sending a detachable card to send to Hagan as well.

Both sides have also set up Web sites to explain their positions.

"They should have a voice in the debate. That's fine," Cope said. "We have a problem using our premium money they are charging to use that voice and to carry that voice to us as consumers."

Blue Cross is simply trying to explain the intricacies of the reform proposal to people, Borman said.

"We have an obligation or a responsibility to advise our customers, to advise North Carolinians, of the impact of this legislation that is being proposed," he said.

WRAL News anchor David Crabtree will interview Blue Cross Chief Executive Bob Greczyn for "On the Record," which airs at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. David will also chat online with WRAL.com visitors about the show at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 9.


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