Blue Cross takes on Obama

RALEIGH It's putting together a media campaign criticizing a White House proposal that calls for a government sponsored health insurance option for Americans.

President Obama called for significant insurance reform during his campaign - saying the ever increasing cost of medical care in America is an anchor that's not only affecting millions who are uninsured, underinsured, or facing skyrocketing premium costs - it's also helping to drag down the overall economy.

"At the rate we're going, we are expected to spend one-fifth of our economy on health care within a decade. And yet we're getting less for our money," said the President last week at a news conference with health insurance executives.

At that same news conference, Obama was flanked by leaders from six groups in the health care industry representing doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, medical suppliers, union members and others. They promised to help cut health spending by 1.5 percent a year. That could amount to two trillion dollars over 10 years.

The photo opportunity seemed like a major shift from the steadfast opposition of the healthcare industry to previous reform attempts such as the failure of the Clinton administration to get anything done.

But while the health care industry has pledged cooperation in exchange for a seat at the table in any health care reform discussions, many in the insurance industry oppose any government sponsored health insurance plan. Agents fear that the government would be competing with them directly, and could seriously eat into their ability to make money.

In statements sent to Eyewitness News, a Blue Cross Blue Shield spokesman said there are better ways to go.

"We support health care reform, and we share many of the same fundamental goals held by those seeking a government plan. The difference is that we think the smartest approach is to build on the employer-based system that works for more than 160 million Americans today," offered spokesman Lew Borman.

Obama says a government run plan that would be non-profit and would not have highly paid executives would be a more affordable option for Americans who currently have a hard time getting or affording private insurance.

Blue Cross plans to take its opposition to the Obama plan to the people with a series of video messages. Story boards of the proposed advertisements were obtained by the Washington Post.

Click here to read the Washington Post article | Click here to see the video storyboards on the Washington Post website (.pdf)

One video shows a doctor's receptionist talking on the phone to a potential new patient.

"The government plan. Okay hold on...let me see what's available," the woman says. "It looks like the first time we can fit you in is in two-and-a-half months."

The campaign seems to play on fears of the same types of slow service and long waits experienced by patients in some European countries that have so-called 'socialized medicine' plans like the United Kingdom - where it's not uncommon for people to wait months for non-emergency surgeries and other procedures.

Blue Cross said it's wary of too much government involvement.

"We believe the government does need to play a role - to assist Americans who cannot afford insurance on the private market. However, we think that private sector health insurance can bring innovation and quality improvements to healthcare more quickly than government," said Borman. "Dealing with rising health care costs is central to health reform. We see three key strategies to lowering costs: improving the quality and effectiveness of care, promoting health through preventive care and lifestyle changes, and continuing to lead in paying for better care, not just more care."

Blue Cross has hired a media firm to produce the videos and plans to post them on a new website to be unveiled later this year.

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