As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, November 06, 2009

Former Blue Cross Commercial Actor Denounces Insurance Industry

You may know Andy Cobb from the series of humorous video sketches he's done about Republicans, the media, and assorted inanities. But he works by day as an actor. And a few years ago, he was a commercial spokesman for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida. Now, he's speaking out about the insurance industry in a new video produced by Brave New Films for their Sick For Profit campaign (disclosure: I am a blogger fellow on this campaign).

Andy, who lives in Los Angeles, describes himself as a "spokesjerk" put in front of the cameras by the industry to deliberately stand in the way of reform and maintain the status quo. He asks for solidarity from spokesjerks like him - the Sham-wow guy, for example - to stop pitching products that rip off Americans.

More on this at The Huffington Post.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Rockefeller, Harkin Sparring With Insurance Industry

(Sick for Profit)

Senate Democrats are trying to extract some embarrassing information from the insurance industry about their deceptive practices.

First, Tom Harkin, who is seeking to subpoena insurers for failing to provide information requested by his committee.

Harkin, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, said his committee may demand information from health insurance companies about the reasoning for steep increases in premiums faced by small businesses.

"I've been inundated with letters and information about the exorbitant increases in premiums for small businesses in this country," Harkin said during an appearance on MSNBC. "I asked them to come and testify at a hearing I had yesterday. They refused."

"So now I'm asking them to give us information on which we can make some decisions on why these premiums are going up so much for small businesses," he added.

Here's the video:

Jay Rockefeller also wants some information about the industry's "medical loss ratio," and how they cook the books to pretend that they spend a substantial amount of premium money on treatment and care.

The New York Times reports: "The health insurance industry likes to cite figures showing that 87 cents of every dollar in premiums is spent on medical claims. But a new Senate analysis suggests that for-profit insurance companies are spending much less than that, especially for policies sold to individuals and small businesses. Instead, as little as 66 cents of each dollar paid in premiums goes toward doctor and hospital bills, while the rest covers administrative expenses, marketing and company profits, according to the analysis. .... The [health reform] legislation that may reach the House floor later this week would initially require insurers to spend at least 85 cents of every dollar in premiums on medical claims."

A long-standing complaint from individuals and small businesses is that they get less for their money. "But insurance companies generally do not disclose how much they spend in different segments of the market. The Senate analysis of the figures does not include information from California, because that state's filings are not available through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. ... The insurance industry's trade group, America's Health Insurance Plans, said Monday that the 87-cent figure it cited as the industry average was based on information collected by the federal government and was an accurate reflection of how much of each dollar in premiums was spent on medical claims." (Abelson, 11/2).

This comes at a time when the Senate is about to unveil their health care bill. This information could be crucial to massing public opinion against the industry and keeping the entire Democratic caucus on board with reform.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

8.2 Million Reasons Not To Give Up

(Sick for Profit)

The House and Senate will be voting on health care bills in a matter of weeks. But the forces behind the status quo have not quit in their efforts to derail the bill or at least get as many goodies out of it as they can.

The lobbying expenses of the top 13 health insurers and their industry association, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), spent nearly $8.2 million in the third quarter of 2009 to influence Congress on upcoming health care legislation, according to analysis released today by the nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog Public Campaign Action Fund (PCAF). The total marks an 11 percent increase over the pace of their spending in the first half of the year.

"Congress is marching toward passing landmark legislation to overhaul the health care system, and the health insurance industry is fighting them every step of the way," said David Donnelly, national campaigns director of Public Campaign Action Fund. "These insurance giants may be running out of time, but clearly they haven't run out of political cash."

This brings the total in lobbying to nearly $23 million this year, including $6.3 million from AHIP, $3.5 million from WellPoint, $3.5 million from UnitedHealth and $2 million from Aetna. Humana, which has spent $1.85 million in lobbying fees this year, saw their earnings rise 65% in the third quarter, a lot of it off the wasteful Medicare Advantage program, which represents a corporate handout and which is earmarked for scale-backs in the health care bills. Majority Leader Reid's office released this statement in response:

“It’s no wonder why Humana has been misleading seniors about health insurance reform -- they saw their profits rise 65 percent last quarter and want to make sure the gravy train doesn’t end. The insurance industry is making billions by gaming the Medicare Advantage system, at the expense of seniors’ traditional Medicare coverage, and taxpayers are footing the bill.

“The American people have had enough, but unfortunately Senate Republicans have sided with insurers like Humana and are working to protect insurance industry profits over Americans’ health care needs. When we pass health insurance reform this year, this will all come to an end. Our seniors deserve better and American taxpayers should not be asked to pad the profits of the insurance industry.”

Insurers like Humana are ready to pounce on this legislation when it hits the floor in both Chambers, particularly in the Senate, where they will use the amendments process to try and cripple reform and the cloture process to outright kill it. But the insurance industry isn't just fighting for their own self-preservation, they're fighting the interests of the people.

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