By Craig Wiesner Tikkun Daily
As a small business owner, and one of the millions of people who had individual health coverage instead of a group plan, one of the things I dreaded most was any letter from Blue Cross. Other than my monthly bills, any time I saw their logo on an envelope, I would break out in a sweat. Why? Because every year for over a decade, any letter I got from them was probably telling me that my rates were going up. 10%, 12%, 24% …
Last year, just before receiving the dreaded letter, I was fortunate to discover that with just two employees, my partner and me, I could get group coverage from Kaiser. I signed up for Kaiser, sent in the first check to cover our first month, and in the same week that I got our ID cards from Kaiser in the mail, I read in the San Francisco Chronicle that Blue Cross was sending out letters to subscribers like me, informing us that our rates would be going up … wait for it … up to 40% (this is in 2008).
I called Blue Cross and said that I was canceling my coverage. “OK, sir. I can take care of that for you.” The chipper woman answered.
“Wait…. Don’t you even care that a customer who has been with you for over a decade is leaving?”
“You’re an individual policy holder – sir. ” is all I can remember her answering, as though that was a clear enough answer. A few minutes later, my Blue Cross was canceled.
This week, February 9th 2010, Anthem Blue Cross sent letters to perhaps hundreds of thousands of California individual policy holders informing them that their rates are going up…. up to 39% AGAIN!
Anthem Blue Cross, part of a larger conglomerate (Wellpoint), which recently posted NET PROFITS of nearly $3 billion dollars, said “Unfortunately, in the weak economy many people who do not have health conditions are forgoing buying insurance. This leaves fewer people, often with significantly greater medical needs, in the insured pool. We regret the impact this has on our members.”
Really? You think the weak economy caused healthy people to forgo buying insurance? You don’t think it had something to do with rates increasing double digits every year for a decade while co-payments went up and quality of care went down? You don’t think it had something to do with insurance companies turning people away because they once had a yeast infection?
I’m glad that I switched us to Kaiser and was very lucky that it took just two people to form a group, because I have pre-existing conditions that caused me to be turned down when I tried to shop around a few years ago for an individual policy. But even our Kaiser plan went up double digits this year (12% or higher depending on which type of plan we chose for the coming year).
Add these skyrocketing rates to the number of people who die each year because they don’t have adequate health coverage, to the impact this all has on individuals and small businesses and big businesses, and can anyone truly doubt that the United States needs real health care reform (not health insurance reform – HEALTH CARE REFORM)?
I’ll be watching the gathering at the White House on February 25th. I’m not too hopeful but as a small business owner and someone with a pre-existing condition, I am somewhat desperate. Gee – I got myself all worked up over this. I’d better calm down with a nice cup of tea … Now where can I find one of those tea bags …