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Profile: Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield
Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield was a participant or observer in the following events:
A protester at a health care forum wears a shirt from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, a prominent area health care provider. [Source: My Left Nutmeg (.com)]Representative Chris Murphy (D-CT) holds a forum in Simsbury, Connecticut, to discuss health care reform. Like many other forums in this and other states (see June 30, 2009, July 6, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 25, 2009, July 27, 2009, July 31, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 1, 2009, August 2, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 3, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 4, 2009, and August 5, 2009), Murphy’s meeting is disrupted by loud and angry protesters who oppose reforming health care. An African-American supporter of health care is accosted by one protester who, on camera, shouts: “You and your asinine friends say that we’re paid by big insurance—you’re paid by ACORN [a grassroots vote-registration organization] and our tax dollars. Yeah, that’s me, hello, get the f_ck out of my face and go back where you come from.” Another protester is caught on camera by a local blogger wearing an Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield shirt. [My Left Nutmeg, 8/5/2009; My Left Nutmeg, 8/6/2009] Anthem, like most corporations involved in health care, is opposed to reform of the health care industry. In recent days, it has asked to be allowed to raise rates on Connecticut members anywhere between 20 and 32 percent. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal called the request “a rate increase that will be catastrophic, not only for our consumers but for our economy.” [Associated Press, 7/30/2009]
Health insurance corporations defend their use of “rescissions,” or denials of care due to what they term “pre-existing conditions” among their customers. Washington Post reporters interview Los Angeles businesswoman Sally Marrari, who in 2006 had her coverage canceled by Blue Cross & Blue Shield after the firm claimed she had withheld information from them about a back problem. Marrari was undergoing treatment for a thyroid disorder, a heart problem, and lupus. After her coverage was canceled, Marrari was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and quickly racked up over $200,000 in medical bills. She says she had no idea at the time that she had any back issues. She is currently suing the company, and is getting health care by trading office visits for work on her doctor’s 1969 Porsche at the garage she owns with her husband. Marrari’s tale is one of many cited by the Post as illustrative of the insurance industry’s unpopular practice. The Post writes, “Tales of cancellations have fueled outrage among regulators, analysts, doctors, and, not least, plaintiffs’ lawyers, who describe insurers as too eager to shed patients to widen profits.” Insurance company spokespersons claim to have little knowledge of just how and why particular patients are subjected to rescission, and Congressional investigators point to a patchwork of state laws and policies which lead to confusion. Since 2008, California’s five largest insurers have paid almost $19 million in fines for unfairly canceling policyholders’ insurance after those clients filed claims. One insurer, Health Net, has admitted to offering bonuses to employees for finding reasons to cancel policies. Gerald Kominski of the Center for Health Policy says: “This is probably the most egregious of examples of health insurers using their power and their resources to deny benefits to people who are most in need of care. It’s really a horrendous activity on the part of the insurers.” But insurers say the rescissions are necessary to combat fraud among policyholders. An Anthem Blue Cross spokeswoman says: “We do not rescind a policyholder’s coverage because someone on the policy gets sick. We have put in place a thorough process with multiple steps to ensure that we are as fair and as accurate as we can be in making these difficult decisions.” Blue Cross has been fined $11 million over the last two years by California state overseers, and required to reinstate dozens of canceled policies. Officials from three insurance companies recently told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee they had saved $300 million by canceling about 20,000 policies over five years. [Washington Post, 9/8/2009]
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