Tag Archives: Blue Cross

Blue Cross Claims Fake Credit for “Free” Care

It’s stunts like this that drive Consumer Watchdog’s efforts to beat back the insurance lobby and regulate untenable health insurance premiums.

When I first noticed the ad below while hunting for cookie recipes, I was surprised to see a health insurance company buying a full page in the first pages of a cooking magazine. But reading it was another surprise. The headline touts “Free Annual Checkups,” and the text of the Anthem Blue Cross ad takes credit for this brand-new benefit: “100% coverage for checkups, flu shots and other preventive services.”

Anthem, however, had nothing to do with the prevention benefit. It’s a requirement of the federal health reforms passed last year. Blue Cross, along with every other major health insurer, fought to eliminate such mandatory benefits and later falsely blamed the law for outrageous, unjustified double-digit premium increases. (The prevention benefit is just one of the things that will disappear if the courts or Congress succeed in voiding the health reform law.)

Anthem must figure a deceptive claim of “free” care will make us feel better about insurance payments bigger than our mortgage.

It’s stunts like this that drive Consumer Watchdog’s efforts to beat back the insurance lobby and regulate untenable health insurance premiums.


Posted by Judy Dugan, research director for Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

Late Morning Open Thread

There are a lot of interesting things going on that should be mentioned, but that I couldn’t quite generate whole posts out of – so here they are for your Friday reading pleasure.

Feel free to add any of your own stories or insights in the comments.

Blue Cross: Making Every Doctor Into a Spy against You!

Lisa Girion of the LA Times has covered the health care beat for a while, and she’s done a pretty good job pointing out some of the problems with the health insurance companies.  Her latest, and most frequent, target is Blue Cross. It seems Blue Cross sent all doctors a letter that they would be getting each patient’s application (for individual members) and that they should be making sure that everything possible was disclosed on the health care forms. You see they ask some very broad questions and you better fill in every damn piece of information or they’ll rescind your coverage when you try to get coverage. (h/t Scoutfinch)

The state’s largest for-profit health insurer is asking California physicians to look for conditions it can use to cancel their new patients’ medical coverage.

Blue Cross of California is sending physicians copies of health insurance applications filled out by new patients, along with a letter advising them that the company has a right to drop members who fail to disclose “material medical history,” including “pre-existing pregnancies.”

“Any condition not listed on the application that is discovered to be pre-existing should be reported to Blue Cross immediately,” the letters say. The Times obtained a copy of a letter that was aimed at physicians in large medical groups.(LA Times 2/12/08)

This policy could cause major problems with the doctor-patient relationship. And under any of the presidential plans without community rating, none of this will stop. Even if you have a national pool, the other insurers will still try to drop the unhealthy and move them to the national pool.  This will only make the national pool more cost uncompetitive. And the cherry-picking domino effect begins.

I think some plans include a prohibition on rescission, but none of the plans include a prohibition on price increases. If it hasn’t been clear that Blue Cross is an impediment to a stable health care system, perhaps now it’s clear? Maybe? Anybody?

Thousands Files Complaints Against Blue Cross

(Dude must have been hot in that suit. – promoted by Julia Rosen)

In Los Angeles yesterday, Blue Cross was brought before the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) following 4,100 calls and complaints in the last three years. The Sick of Blue Cross petition drive turned in more than 1,600 in only one week’s time.

The hearing gave Californians a great opportunity to hold the state’s largest for-profit health insurer accountable for dangerous business practices such as only covering the healthy and denying coverage to the sick. Blue Cross is also notorious for raising rates however and whenever it chooses.

Find out more and see pictures of Mr. Sick of Blue Cross below the fold…

For years, Blue Cross has treated California like an ATM machine and recently shipped $950 million in profits to its corporate parent, WellPoint, based in Indiana.

Mr. Sick of Blue Cross

But yesterday’s hearing is just the beginning – and there’s still much more work to do to get Blue Cross to clean up its act because these practices are simply unacceptable.

Health advocates gathered outside with signs and placards saying “I’m sick of Blue Cross” and repeating chants of “Hey Blue Cross you can’t hide — we can see your greedy side.” (Check out video courtesy of NBC-TV San Diego.)

Once inside, past and present Blue Cross policyholders told their stories of premiums going up and benefits going down, rejected claims and denied coverage — all this conducted by a health provider that claims it supports “access to all Californians.

Now our work shifts from the Los Angeles hearing room to the Capitol in Sacramento, where the Assembly and Senate must keep their promise to enact meaningful healthcare reform when they return later this month.

Blue Cross is leading the opposition to healthcare reform in California – and we’re going to need your continued help to fight back and pass real reform this year. Earlier this year, Blue Cross committed $2 million for a campaign to stop healthcare reform in California under the auspices of “responsible” reform. This campaign to stifle change already includes print and radio ads criticizing reform efforts, using fear-mongering tactics to make Californians afraid of change in the healthcare system.

Sick of Blue Cross is a project of the It’s OUR Healthcare! coalition

Health Advocates Take on Blue Cross

Tell Blue Cross to Clean Up Its Act

Next week, the State of California will drag Blue Cross into a public hearing and investigate thousands of complaints from policyholders about premium increases, benefit cuts, canceled policies and other practices.

If you had a bad experience with Blue Cross, you are strongly encouraged to submit a public comment. Or, you can sign our petition that will be delivered to the hearing in Los Angeles on August 7.

Blue Cross raked in nearly a $1 billion in profits last year and shipped it off to parent company, WellPoint, based in Indiana. Blue Cross is able to amass such profits because it relies on business practices that harm millions of Californians, such as:

* Spending less of California’s premium dollars on patient care than other larger insurers
* Denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and instead seeking to insure only the healthy
* Selling insurance designed to provide limited benefits, coupled with high deductibles and co-pays
* Raising rates however and whenever it chooses

These business practices are unacceptable (yet completely legal!) — and it’s time for us to put a stop to them.

At Sick of Blue Cross, we launched a petition to urge the state to order Blue Cross to return our money and to pass healthcare legislation to prevent Blue Cross from gouging us and start providing real healthcare.

Blue Cross is not only a leader in health insurance practices that need to be reformed, it is also a leader in the opposition to reform. Blue Cross has already committed $2 million for a campaign to stop health care reform this year in California — and Blue Cross has already run print and radio ads criticizing reform efforts and trying to make Californians afraid of change in the healthcare system.

It’s time for Blue Cross to clean up its act!

We’ll deliver this petition to the August 7th hearing in Los Angeles — and we want your name to be on it.

Sign our petition now — so together we can demand reform and get Blue Cross to clean up its act and return its excessive profits to California!

Just Another Day at the Office for California GOP Lawyers

The New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg penned a column about the California Republican Party’s attempt to siphon off what could be roughly twenty of California’s fifty four consistently Democratic electoral votes.  Naturally, they are using the initiative process to try and do this.

Two weeks ago, one of the most important Republican lawyers in Sacramento quietly filed a ballot initiative that would end the practice of granting all fifty-five of California’s electoral votes to the statewide winner. Instead, it would award two of them to the statewide winner and the rest, one by one, to the winner in each congressional district. Nineteen of the fifty-three districts are represented by Republicans, but Bush carried twenty-two districts in 2004. The bottom line is that the initiative, if passed, would spot the Republican ticket something in the neighborhood of twenty electoral votes-votes that it wouldn’t get under the rules prevailing in every other sizable state in the Union.

The Republican lawyers behind this convoluted effort, Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, were deeply involved in the 2003 recall campaign against Democratic Governor Gray Davis that propelled current Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger into power.

It is no surprise that the law firm created a ficticious front group, Californians for Equal Representation, to do their bidding because they have a history of it.

  • Dave Johnson reported in his September 15, 2006 The Huffington Post article on new MB&H client Economic Freedom Fund that other Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk’s clients include:
  • California Tribal Business Alliance-“an ‘Indian Gaming’ organization” whose “mission statement is ‘to safeguard and enhance the success of the business enterprises of our tribal government members’ ……. and ‘will foster business development and coalition building with like minded government and business leaders in California.'” (Also see this.)
  • “Californians for Paycheck Protection-yet another front group-this one sponsoring a California anti-union ballot initiative (Prop. 75). (Their major funders in 2005 (go see how much) included the Chamber of Commerce and the California Republican Party.)” (Also see this.)
  • “notorious anti-environmental Congressman Richard Pombo.” (See here.)
  • big tobacco“, with BM&H as “Philip Morris Outside Counsel” (See this.)
  • “A different partner at this firm, Thomas Hiltachk, filed the ‘Fair Pay Workplace Flexibility Act of 2006’-a stealth attempt to get rid of California’s overtime rules.”

Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk also represents the Blue Cross of California front group — a coalition of one — aimed at derailing movement on California’s top legislative priority: healthcare.

Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, LLP Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform
Main Office: Sacramento:
455 Capitol Mall
Suite 801
Sacramento, California 95814
Phone: 916 442-7757
FAX: 916 442-7759
455 Capitol Mall, Suite 801
Sacramento, CA 95814-4433
[email protected]

Two organizations. One address. Zero concern for the average Californian.

Now, just because they filed this initiative does not mean it will make it on the ballot.  They have no shot at making the Feb 5th date.  They could, if they raised the $1 million+ to pay for signature gatherers have a shot at making it on the June ballot.  That will be a very low turnout election.  We don’t have any major races occurring on that date.  Yeah, I know the Migden-Leno race will be big an all, but there is no major mayor’s race in LA or SF.  No constitutional officers up for election.  No Senate race.  If they do make it on the ballot, then a relatively small number of Californians could have a big impact on the presidential election.

This type of arcane rule initiative is among the hardest to pass.  It is not exactly something that grabs people.  There would be a very heavy push back from the Democrats if it looked like this was particularly viable.  I would not be surprised to see a competing ballot measure put up to try and confuse votes.  It worked wonderfully when big PhRMA put up Prop 78 to defeat Prop 79.

This will need to be something we track and see if it gets any traction.

[UPDATE by Julia] Here is an AP article on the initiative.  Arnold says that his is not involved and the CRP says the same.  I find that highly unbelievable, especially on the party’s end.  Notice what Nehring has to say about it.

“We’ll take a serious look at it, once it qualifies for the ballot,” state Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring said.

Not if it makes it on the ballot, but when.  This could be all a ruse to get Democrats to drop a bunch of cash to defeat it, when those dollars/resources could be used elsewhere. 

Going After Blue Cross of CA

The public hearing scheduled for July 19 about Blue Cross of CA and its deceptive, anti-consumer practices will now be held on August 7.  Not only are they angering their subscriber base by going out of their way to deny claims and cancel policies for “discrepancies” as trivial as typos, but they’re starting to piss off hospitals as well.

Blue Cross of California’s latest antidote to rising healthcare costs isn’t going down very well with physicians. The state’s largest for-profit health plan is set to roll back its payments for about half the services and procedures provided by physicians next month.

And many of the 53,408 physicians in Blue Cross’ preferred provider organization (PPO) networks say that’s a prescription for disaster.

Doctors say the health plan imposed the new rates unilaterally. In most cases, they say, Blue Cross will get its way because it controls the lion’s share of their patient base. But other physicians say they’ve had it with Blue Cross. More than 300 of them have sent notices threatening to dump the insurer if the rates take effect as scheduled Aug. 6. Some say the new rates won’t even cover the cost of supplies. ‘I don’t know how anybody can afford to stay in practice and accept Blue Cross rates,’ said Dr. Charles Fishman, a San Luis Obispo dermatologist who sent a letter telling Blue Cross he would drop its contract if his rates were not improved. A spokeswoman for the insurer described the level of complaints over the new rates as routine, and she said the number of termination notices from physicians over the issue was negligible – less than 1% of the doctors in its PPO networks.

Surely, this will come up in the August 7 hearing, to be held at the Carmel Room Auditorium at the Junipero Serra Building, 320 West 4th St., Los Angeles, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.  And It’s Our Healthcare is amping up the pressure by demanding that Blue Cross return to the state millions in excess profits:

This year alone, Blue Cross has sent almost a billion dollars in profit out of California to its corporate headquarters in Indiana.

Blue Cross is able to amass such a profit because it currently relies on business practices that harm millions of Californians, such as:

–Spending less of California’s premium dollars on patient care than other larger insurers
–Denying coverage for pre-existing conditions?and instead seeking to insure only the healthy
–Selling insurance designed to provide limited benefits, coupled with high deductibles and co-pays
–Raising rates however and whenever it chooses

We urge the state enact meaningful reform to stop these practices and we urge the state to order Blue Cross to return the hundreds of millions of dollars in excess profit to California.

We, the undersigned Californians, ask the state to make Blue Cross reform its business practices to start putting people ahead of profits and stop using California as an ATM.

Blue Cross has already settled out of court on some of these issues, but there is no indication that they have curtailed their practices and cleaned up their act.  Blue Cross has also taken the lead in torpedoing meaningful health care reform in the state.  It is maybe the most unconscionable company in the state, and I don’t know what it takes to get a corporate charter revoked, but theirs ought to be.

At any rate, you can keep the pressure up by signing the petition.

Sick of Blue Cross? We Are

(Cool new site, even though the graphics make my eyes freak out. – promoted by juls)

For far too long, Blue Cross of California’s standard operating procedures of policy cancellation and denial of coverage have gone on unchecked and unregulated. With healthcare reform a top priority in Sacramento, Blue Cross dropped $2 million on an astroturf “coalition of one” to stifle necessary reform this year.

Today, It’s OUR Healthcare, a coalition of consumer advocates, seniors, health advocates, communities of faith, and labor comprising more than 10 million, says no more and is asking Californians everywhere to stand up and fight back.

We are launching an aggressive online, public information campaign to uncover the real Blue Cross at www.SickOfBlueCross.com.

From our press release this morning:

It’s OUR Healthcare! has been advocating for a number of reforms that would fundamentally change the way Blue Cross and the healthcare industry do business in California:

* Banning the practice of denying coverage for “pre-existing conditions,” including minor conditions such as yeast infections, ear infections and seasonal hay fever.

* Requiring that a fair percentage of every premium dollar be spent on healthcare. There’s no minimum now, and a proposed requirement that at least 85% of every dollar charged be spent on healthcare, would be a radical shift (and increase) for Blue Cross.

* Requiring approval and justification for rate hikes. Because uncontrolled increases in the cost of health insurance have hit businesses and families hard in California.

Blue Cross sent nearly $1 billion in profits back to their corporate headquarters in Indiana last May. Their “coalition of one” — Blue Cross — are using scare tactics with their radio and print ads.

Blue Cross is putting money into stopping reform this year, because real reforms are on the table. It’s OUR Healthcare! and legislative leaders are taking a hard look at how our healthcare needs to be fixed, and those changes will force Blue Cross to make serious changes to its business model, which relies on:

* Spending hundreds of millions of dollars that Californians pay for health insurance each year on high salaries, slick marketing and “dividends” to out-of-state corporate headquarters

* Cherry-picking: denying coverage for pre-existing conditions  and instead seeking to insure only the healthy

* Selling insurance designed to provide limited benefits, coupled with high deductibles and co-pays

* Raising rates however and whenever it chooses

Their slogan says, “Get the power of Blue working for you.” The fact is that it ain’t working and they want to keep it that way.

Don’t let them. Stand up.

Perata and Nunez health care bills combined

(I added the video of the Perata/Nunez presser after the flip – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

So, as expected, the leadership in the state legislature has agreed to combine their bills on health care reform.  The significant number is that the bill would require businesses to spent a minimum of 7.5% of payroll on health care.  But this newest proposal doesn’t come close to being universal.

Most significantly, they agreed to drop the Senate plan to require that Californians with more than modest incomes get insurance. That was intended to be the middle ground between Schwarzenegger’s insistence on universal coverage and the Assembly’s rejection of any requirement that people have insurance.

Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) also agreed to apply the business requirement to every enterprise except the self-employed. The Assembly plan had carved out large exemptions for businesses with only one employee, those with payrolls of less than $100,000 and those that had been in operation for three or fewer years.

The Governor held a press conference today as well, and pretty much said that you need an individual mandate, and that nothing the Legislature passes matters, that he’ll work it all out in secret.  Now THAT’S transparency in government!

I do think that somewhere down the line, an individual mandate does make some sense because it spreads the risk pool.  And I think this new bill strengthens the tying of health care to employment, when that really should be severed.  But putting in an individual mandate without regulating the insurance companies to any major degree, or setting any ceiling on affordability or floor on coverage, seems like nothing more than shoveling billions of dollars to the for-profit healthcare industry.  So I’m not particularly jazzed by any of these proposals outside of SB 840, which of course will be vetoed.  The Perata/Nunez plan looks to me to be insufficient, though I’ll wait for the release of details.

Blue Cross Ads By HillaryCare Destroyers

(cross-posted from Working Californians) I also have a post up on dailykos that combines this one and yesterday’s.

New details about the Blue Cross concern troll campaign are trickling out.  It turns out that the print ad was produced by Goddard Claussen.  Who you ask?

The ad was produced by Goddard Claussen, the political firm that created the famous “Harry and Louise” ads that helped sink Hillary Clinton’s health care reform proposal in 1994. Those ads, funded by health insurance companies, featured a middle class couple raising alarms that Clinton’s plan would unleash a confusing national health care bureaucracy.

They are using the same exact fear tactics over again, in attempt to secure their massive profits, while millions go with out care and coverage.  Only this time people know exactly what they are up to and are well prepared to parry their attack.  Schwarzenegger responded directly to the campaign yesterday, without prompting.

“Blue Cross has already put up an ad where they threaten people and scare people and say `don’t change anything,'” Schwarzenegger said during a meeting with high-tech executives at Seagate Technology’s office in Sunnyvale. “But we don’t pay attention to that.”

Actually, you are paying attention quite closely, anything less would be a huge mistake.  They were successful back in 1994 and it will take a great deal of effort to overcome their determination to scuttle reform, more than a decade later.

“We always knew there would be people who would like to hold on to the status quo; they don’t want changes; they don’t want to insure everybody,” Schwarzenegger said.

Now that is more accurate.  Blue Cross is notorious for cherry picking the healthiest and denying coverage to others.  It is among their most odious, but profitable practices.

Anthony Wright has continued to do some excellent fact checking of the wildly inaccurate Blue Cross ads.