President Obama's "get it done" speech on health reform Wednesday may have been a day late, but I hope it's not a dollar short, as the old saying goes. At least he has one tremendous ally in his call for action by Congress: Anthem Blue Cross, the nation's largest health insurer.
The company's outrageous premium increases, not just in California but across the country, are the gift that keeps giving to the push for real health reform. Not only is the insurance conglomerate jacking up premiums--(I heard from a man in Washington, D.C. whose rate went up 93 percent!)-but it is also pushing people into horrible, low-benefit policies.
Another person I heard from recently is a mother whose policy on her 13-year-old son just went up 57%. She was forced into a high-deductible, low-benefit policy that will cost her even more than the old one if her son has an accident.
Oh, wait. The kid already did. He ended up with an emergency room visit and a broken bone. Mom is on the hook for thousands of dollars.
All of these stories are an outrage, even when they're not life-threatening. Consumer Watchdog has filed a lawsuit against a particular Blue Cross tactic, in which it forces people into degraded insurance policies by closing out certain types of policies to new customers, then steadily jacks up the price for anyone trying to keep the old policy. You can see more about that lawsuit at consumerwatchdog.org
But for most people getting these awful rate increases on individual policies, Blue Cross will probably get away with it.
The only cure for this kind of behavior is tighter regulation and accountability for these companies, including their rates; help in buying insurance, and laws that keep insurers from kicking you out of your policy. And yes, those are all benefits of the health reform plan the president is asking Congress to pass.
Opponents want to leave you to the mercies of Blue Cross and its corporate friends. Good luck with that. Instead, why not call your Senators and your member of Congress to tell them you want health reform, and you want it now.
Here's a website, Congress.org, that will give you all the names and numbers if you just type in your ZIP code.