Archive for February 27th, 2010


I was invited to contribute here by jhwygirl on transportation, land use issues, and such.  Since that has gone so swimmingly for me so far (my own mistake in making in-the-moment, emotional comments that didn’t sit well with many people).  So now I’ll change gears and throw my hat into the healthcare debate by sharing a friend’s story.

This friend was laid off just about a year ago, a few years before she would have received a full retirement package that included healthcare.  Upon termination she moved to Missoula and has been on COBRA health insurance, which will run out in a couple of months.  COBRA has been pretty good to her as she’s made extensive use of it to cover abdominal surgery (which went horribly wrong) and the numerous subsequent surgeries that were needed to fix the complications from the first surgery.  This has been a nine month saga costing hundreds of thousands of dollars and she is just now getting back to normal… though still weak from all the surgeries.

So now she is facing a future without healthcare because she can’t afford the $12,000 a year for coverage because of here now  “preexisting” condition and she is still a few years from being able to draw medicare.  (life is a preexisting condition)

So what will she do?  Game the system by going back to college and signing up for the university provided insurance.  Its pretty sad that she feels this is her only option to get affordable health insurance.  According to her this is a fairly popular strategy for seniors that have lost their employer based health insurance but don’t yet qualify for medicare.  With all her health problems she can’t afford to be without insurance.

Not only is this not an effective way to provide health insurance, but I also wonder of how much this costs the state of Montana?  If this is a truly popular option among Montana seniors as a stop-gap option to health insurance, how much money is going to cover their health problems that should be going into investments in education?

This just goes to illustrating that we don’t have a healthcare system in this country, but a patchwork of less than optimal options that increasingly don’t work for the American people.

by jhwygirl

I wrote here just the other day of what many view as the galling move by WellPoint to increase health insurance rates of 34 million people across 8 states.

That increase will help increase profits by an estimated 7% for this year. This, from a company that made $4.7 billion in profit off of $60 billion in sales.

Stop, take a breath and read that again.

Not gonna happen here? Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana controls 75% of Montana’s health insurance market share. And now here comes The Missoula Independent reporting that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana has recently sent out notices of rate increases, as high as 43%.

Apparently this is an anomaly that perhaps we shouldn’t be worried about:

Tim Warner, the company’s senior director of external affairs, says most rate hikes this year fall between 10 and 20 percent, on par with recent years.

Make sure you read that last paragraph with a heavy dose of sarcasm, folks.

Make sure to read that Indy link – Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana put out a notice on February 10th telling its customers that their health insurance rates (not their cable costs, or their internet costs – all things that people can really do without) would be going up by as much as 43% on April 1st.

State auditor’s office spokesperson Jackie Boyle said that while they lack any authority to crack down on the rate increases, “anybody who has bought into a health insurance product from our company and there’s a premium increase that high, they really should…contact us so we can work with them to see if there’s a better solution.”

The Indy’s Matthew Frank is looking for Montanans that have gotten these rate increase letters. If you can help him out with that, check out that post and give him a holla. This story deserves thorough investigative coverage.

I haven’t given up on expecting some real reform. After last week’s WellPoint showdown in the Senate, with the rate increases meeting press release on the eve of this past week’s bi-partisan health reform summit, patience is wearing pretty thin with those that know something has to be done.

Think me crazy if you will, but these reckless increases by health insurance corporations only serve to make me renew my calls for a public option. Here in Montana, there is no competition, and competition is key to affordability.

Think about this, readers: If Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana just put out notices raising rates as high as 45% – and it is (fact) the state’s largest insurer – it makes sense that other minor insurers will be following.

Think about what that means – because every single taxpayer in this state – whether you have health insurance or not, whether you obtain it from your employer or whether you obtain it on the free market – all of you should be expecting another larger bill here sometimes in the future. That’s because as a taxpayer, you not only have your very own health insurance that you either pay for or you don’t, you are paying for all sorts of local, state and federal employee’s health insurance.

And they are pulling out of the same market (or lack thereof, as is the case here in Montana) as everyone else.

Expect that bill in the mail sometime before the next legislative session. At some point, the insurers start negotiation with the state. Probably Department of Administration. Will the state negotiate any impending 45% rate increase? Rates that have – by their own admittance as linked to above – normally increased between 10 and 20% annually over the last decade?

Seriously – imagine your heating costs or your mortgage or rent going up by 10 to 20% annually. Those kind of increases – let’s take gasoline as an example – strap this nation and bring it to its knees. Yet Montana Blue Cross Blue Shield puts that out there very matter-of-factually. That that’s OK…and here we are standing around debating the need for health reform.

The status quo is not acceptable when it comes to healthcare in this nation.

I hope I’ve sufficiently fired you up. Remember some main points: WellPoint, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana and 45%. Now fire off an email, ever how brief, telling Sen. Tester, Sen. Baucus, and Rep. Denny Rehberg that you want real meaningful reform…and remind them (by mentioning WellPoint, Blue Cross Blue Shield Montana and that 45% figure) that you are watching.

Silence, in this case, is not golden.

by JC

Tonight on MTPR, there was a great commentary by Brian Muldoon on the Citizen’s United case. Here is the clip:

“A corporation obviously is nothing at all like a human being. There is no social benefit to granting it the unrestricted right to speak on behalf of its agenda. Human beings benefit from free speech–we change each other’s minds, we listen, we change our own minds. Corporations don’t have minds. Or opinions. They don’t listen. They don’t have moods or inspired moments or disappointment. Applying the free speech protections of the First Amendment to corporations is the ultimate act of legal sophistry…

We created corporations, we are their parents, and we are responsible for what they say and do. If we don’t find a way to set some limits, it is we the people–the real people–who are to blame.”

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