Protestors target Blue Cross

August 20, 2009 2:58:15 PM PDT
Protestors took insurance giant Blue Cross Blue Shield to task Thursday for its outspoken opposition to some of the health care proposals coming from President Barack Obama.A group showed up at the company's Chapel Hill headquarters to voice their anger.

One of them was Rhonda Robinson. She's out of work and can't find affordable insurance because of a pre-existing condition.

"I have epilepsy. I have hypertension due to the stroke, so I didn't qualify," she explained.

Many say Robinson's case is a prime example of what's wrong with health care in America. We spend more as a country than any other western nation on medical services, but millions fall through the cracks or end up in emergency rooms leaving other taxpayers to cover their expenses.

"Insurance companies are not in the business of providing meaningful health for citizens," offered John Parker with the group HealthCarewithHeart. "They're in the business of making money. They're in the business of profits."

But Blue Cross - North Carolina's biggest private insurance company, covering 3.8 million residents - points out it is a not-for-profit company.

"85 percent of a premium dollar goes to pay claims," explained spokesperson Barbara Morales Burke.

The company has become a target for reform activists because it - like for-profit insurance firms - is fighting the idea of a so-called 'public option' - a government run health care system that would compete with private insurance.

Burke says such a plan is a very bad idea.

"[It would] drastically reduced choices of private insurers, because we'll be driven out of the marketplace," she said. "People will ultimately have only one health plan to choose from."

Blue Cross says that one plan would be the government.

But critics say Blue Cross currently controls about 70 percent of the North Carolina health insurance market and that's not very competitive. They say government competition will bring prices down for everyone.

"People will have a choice. It's not anything being mandated on people. People will actually have a choice. And I believe that's what people want," said Lynice Williams with Health Care for America Now!

Blue Cross says it has no accurate estimate of its North Carolina market share.


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