On Friday, in the mail I received a flyer from BlueCross BlueShield of NC that included a postcard that the addressee is invited to send along to North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, the purpose, to let her know that the constituent is opposed to what the flyer refers to as "federal intervention in the private health insurance market." The spiel on the flyer (see below) draws an implied line from the public option to single-payer and refers to it a "slippery slope." It is an action designed for those who BC BS believes want to defend the health insurance organization's position in our currently sick health care system.
When I picked out the flyer from my mail while standing at the kitchen counter, realized the wording on it, and realized what they were saying and expecting me to do, I literally shuddered with anger. "Fuckers," I said outloud (and I guess the cats were listening, too.)
Then - "don't get angry, do something"-style - I figured out that the enclosed postcard could be altered to conversely subvert the intended purpose and that's what I did. I crossed out portions of the message, wrote in my own (see below), and and put it in the Saturday mail. Thanks for the postage Blue Cross B.S.!
Humourously, after I had put it in the mail, I saw tonight that Lex at Democratic Underground received the same flyer and had the same reaction and did almost the exact same as I did, posting photographs of her postcard here. After I saw that DU post, I went out and retrieved my postcard to add more message and take more photos. It will go out in Monday's mail. (I was too late for the afternoon mail on Saturday, anyhow.)
Huffington Post had a Saturday blog entry by Yuna Shin concerning the mailings, with comments you might want to read.
I hope that all North Carolina liberals/progressives and NC Kossacks who receive this flyer will do the same and let Sen. Hagan know that this country needs REAL health care reform and that we are disgusted by BC BS's self-interested action and corrupted use of their customer's premiums. If you do this, please make a copy of your postcard to Sen. Hagan and send it to BC BS as well (they're bound to hear about it anyway, no matter what PR reaction they try.) Make it CLEAR that the postcard is in opposition to Blue Cross's original intention. Other North Carolinians might make a postcard of the images here and send them to her. (Be nice!)
As I am unaware as to whether or not BlueCross BlueShield group, which is a 501(m) organization, having lost their full tax-exempt status with the Tax Reform Act of 1986, though technically a non-profit in North Carolina, is targeting other Senators in other states by pulling the same shenanigan, but comment here if you know of any other postcards with purposes that can be redirected.
The TEXT of my message reads: "The fact that Blue Cross spent money sending out these mailings instead of on health care, shows how corrupt the for-profit system is."
The TEXT of the BC BS flyer:
No matter what you call it, if the federal government intervenes in the private health insurance marker, it's a slippery slope o t a single-payer system.
Who wants that?"
On the inside it reads:
"Send a message to North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan. We already have a system that covers 160 million Americans, let's build on that.
Complete the postage-paid card, detach it and drop it in the mail to Senator Hagan..."
Lex thought to use a nice bright RED. : - )
Well, I have sent the postcard, but I don't think BC BS of NC CEO Bob Greczyn, he of $3.99 million in salary and bonuses this year, will be too happy about it. That's o.k., I believe I am acting in the interest of saving American lives.
Blue Cross profits, exec pay spark criticism
Posted: Mar. 4, 2009
Updated: Mar. 9, 2009
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, the state's largest insurer, earned $186 million last year while raising premiums on customers as the economy slid into recession.
Such large profits by a nonprofit company elicited sharp criticism from health care reform and state employee advocates.
"I think it's outrageous. We have North Carolinians losing their jobs, losing their health insurance, really hurting, and then you look at Blue Cross," said Adam Searing, director of the NC Justice Center's Health Access Coalition and a longtime critic of Blue Cross.
Groups appalled by Blue Cross profits VIDEO AT LINK
"I think it sends the message to North Carolinians that we (at Blue Cross) care more about making money than making health insurance affordable," Searing said. "It raises a question: Where are our premium dollars going?"
Blue Cross spokesman Lew Borman defended the insurer's financials, pointing out that the company's 3.6 percent profit margin in 2008 was the smallest in at least five years. Profits also were down from $209 million in 2007, and Borman noted the company paid $162 million in federal, state and local taxes last year.
"We know times are tough and we're trying to do something about it," Borman said. "We're in solid financial shape, and it's due to the executives that put us in that position."
The top six executives at Blue Cross each made more than $1 million last year, topped by Chief Executive Bob Greczyn at close to $4 million. Greczyn's annual income included a $3 million bonus and was a 23 percent increase over 2007.
Blue Cross and I, both, ironically, are concerned about the Senator's stance on health care reform, albeit for essentially diametrically opposed reasons. They want to undermine her support for the public option. I want a government-administered single-payer universal health system that covers all Americans - there are ways to do it: Beveridge model, Bismarck model, Douglas model, something new.
Her stance, as it was in August, was addressed in an opinon piece that month that Sen. Hagan, who is on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, wrote for The Charlotte Observer. In it she wrote that it is "of vital importance to me" that whatever health care reform passes be deficit-neutral.
Cost concerns understood, is it not more important the reform be ACTUAL reform? I have yet to feel real reassurance that any of the proposed bans on denial of insurance to Americans based on pre-existing condition is workable. I am open to argument, and extremely skeptical. I have great fear that the public option that we end up is going to be deliberately nonviable and that extreme marginalization will give ammunition against future reform. In vulgarian brevity, I think the health care reform that we have ended up with is a big pile of shit. Nevertheless, as it is yet unclear exactly what "public option" Sen. Hagan will ultimately have to vote on (trigger, anyone?), I wrote both 'Yes on the Public Option,' and 'Yes on Single-Payer' on my postcard to Hagan, just to make the big-view contrarian statement and get under BC BS's skin.
From her op/ed piece:
"Currently, 45.7 million people in our country have no health insurance. The majority are working Americans. About 44 percent are from the South, and one in five North Carolinians has no health insurance. An additional 14,000 people lose their coverage every day. Simply put, we can no longer afford inaction.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, on which I sit, crafted a bill that strengthens our employer-based system."
Sen. Hagan released this statement in September concerning her position on health care reform. It was a reaction to the President's Congressional address:
"The President is dedicated, as I am, to strengthening our existing, employer-based system. We agree the reform package must stabilize costs, expand coverage and ensure that a preexisting condition does not prevent anyone from obtaining health insurance. As I have said all along and the President just confirmed - people who like their current insurance and doctors will keep them. The President also wants to create more competition in the insurance market and help small businesses provide health insurance coverage, which I believe are critical components for inclusion in the final bill.
"The President was adamant that health care reform will not add to our federal deficit now or in the future. He specifically said he would not sign a bill that adds one dime to our deficit, which has been a requirement of mine all along.
"I agree with President Obama that our country needs health care reform that stabilizes costs and provides security to our families. A medical condition should never cause a family to declare bankruptcy."
Whether you are happy with the status of health care reform, or would like to see a universal health care model of some other type or of one of our own invention, the self-serving behavior of the health-care robber barons doesn't have to go unanswered, especially when we can, it's hoped, get a laugh at them for shooting themselves in the foot while we're at it.
We might have to laugh to keep from crying:
To see concrete evidence of why we need REAL health care reform in this country, try to find and view the full free clinic Oct. 15, 2009 special episode of Dr. Oz's show, where he and other volunteers treated about 2,000 people in one day in Houston, Texas. You will see the uninsured infant with the hole in her heart the uninsured laborer with the tumor for a lower lip - the REAL health care horror stories, not in Canada, but in the United States. It includes an interview with Nicole Lamoureaux, executive director of the National Association of Free Clinics, who are expecting to treat a total of 8 million people this year.
Blue Cross' action stinks to high heaven of self-serving feudal-system robber baron odor.
Senator Kay Hagan Contact Info:
Toll Free: 1-877-852-9462
UPDATE: Edited to fix photo sizes and to add Huffington Post blog entry from September - "Blue Cross Blue Shield Execs In ND Profited From Bogus Bonuses" and an article from May on Blue Cross' planned TV campaign.
UPDATE 2: N.C. Policy Watch blog gets credit for being first to publicize Blue Cross's move, as far as I can tell right now. Day before I received the mailing.
UPDATE 3: I added a March 2009 WRAL-TV Investigates story about criticism of Blue Cross' executive pay.
UPDATE 4: Lex from DU called Hagan's office and posted her own thread:
Some DUers expressed concern that Sen. Hagan's staff would just see that the postcard was from Blue Cross and Blue Shield and count it as an "against" the public option message without looking at the message I edited.
So, I just called Senator Hagan's office and talked with a very nice staffer there. She took my name and city of residence, and I explained the situation. I explained the pre-printed postcards they would soon be getting, and that many people were CHANGING the pre-printed message from BCBS, to one of SUPPORT of the Public Option and letting BCBS pick up the pre-paid postage.
She thought that was great (gave a laugh when I said BCBS would be paying the postage for my message), told me Sen. Hagan was for a Public Option, and assured me they would absolutely look at the message on the cards and sort and count them according to message.
If you are a constituent of Senator Hagan's please give a quick call in support of the public option. Her staffer was very nice.
Toll Free: 1-877-852-9462 or 202-224-6342.