I’m not sure how I got signed up to be on the BlueCross BlueShield of TN “Blue Voice” panel. Blue Voice is a periodic online survey they send to certain folks, designed to assure us BCBS customers that they really really care. Or, as the slogan goes, “you speak, we listen!”
I have my doubts, of course. Especially with questions like this one:
Really? These are our only choices? Either the Republican talking point or different variations of you’re wonderful? How about:
I don’t really see the value in having private, for-profit health insurance and would prefer a single-payer system like Medicare for all.
Ha, who am I fooling? BCBS doesn’t really care what we think. They just want us to reaffirm what they think. They’re already convinced that the only reason people opt not to have health insurance is because they “choose to take their chances” instead of “be responsible” and spend the money on this vital expenditure. Sure! It can’t possibly be because they can’t afford a policy, and neither can their employer.
You know what? Years ago I had a policy that I bought directly from BCBS. It was ridiculously expensive, and offered crappy benefits. I had to choose between an annual mammogram or a blood panel. One year I had my cholesterol checked at a Women’s Expo event at the convention center. Another year I did without the mammogram and got a scolding from my doctor.
That wasn’t “choice,” it was “shit fuck damn but this takes a huge bite out of my monthly nut.” I used to joke that I married Mr. Beale for his health insurance but honestly, as wonderful as my husband is, there’s a kernel of truth to that.
But I guess obscene CEO salaries and corporate profits are more important to the insurance industry than making sure their policies are accessible and affordable to everyone. And speaking of salaries, I wonder what Vicky Gregg, CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of TN, earns? According to this story from last year, she’s not choosing between a mammogram and a blood test:
CEO Vicky Gregg refused to provide full disclosure. She said her BC-BS salary was $1.7 million in 2009, but she and her staff refused to say how much she and other executives and board members were compensated through BC-BS’ other 10 for-profit and two nonprofit companies.
Thanks to a requirement under the new Affordable Care Act that directs health-care insurers to disclose their administrative costs beginning this year, those figures are becoming available. Reporter Dave Flessner’s story last Sunday said Gregg’s compensation was now more than $4.4 million. He also found that in 2009, her contract activated partial vesting of certain deferred compensation when she turned 55 that brought her total compensation package that year to nearly $6.2 million — more than three times the amount of compensation that she revealed to us last year.
I’m sure she’s worth every penny of it, too. /sarcasm
No one would ever believe that we have the most expensive healthcare system in the world and have the least to show for it. Nope, let’s just keep pushing that Republican line about people “choosing” to be uninsured, as opposed to being forced to go without while the Vicky Greggs of the industry rake in the millions. Nope, nothing wrong with that scenario!
If you haven’t read Down The Insurance Rabbit Hole yet, please do so now. This story broke my heart, but it’s just one tale among thousands and thousands in this country:
May the justices please meet my sister-in-law. On Feb. 8, she was a healthy 32-year-old, who was seven and a half months pregnant with her first baby. On Feb. 9, she was a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down by a car accident that damaged her spine. Miraculously, the baby, born by emergency C-section, is healthy.
Were the Obama health care reforms already in place, my brother and sister-in-law’s situation — insurance-wise and financially — would be far less dire. My brother’s small employer — he is the manager of a metal-fabrication shop — does not offer health insurance, which was too expensive for them to buy on their own. Fortunately, my sister-in-law had enrolled in the Access for Infants and Mothers program, California’s insurance plan for middle-income pregnant women. AIM coverage extends 60 days postpartum and paid for her stay in intensive care and early rehabilitation.
But when the 60 days is up next week, the family will fall through the welfare medicine rabbit hole. As a scholar of social policy at M.I.T., I teach students how the system works. Now I am learning, in real time.
Imagine if she hadn’t been pregnant. She wouldn’t have had any options — not because she wanted to “take her chances” and spend her money on designer clothes and tennis lessons, but because they could not afford it. This is real stuff, folks. Having no other choice is not “freedom” — it’s the polar opposite.
This part really resonated:
Instead, their financial future is shattered. Family and friends are raising money to buy a wheelchair van and to renovate their home for accessibility. The generosity of the local community is stunning. One incident in particular struck me to the core. A woman from a small community nearby had something for us. A cancer survivor, she had decided to “give back” by placing donation cans in stores around town. She had finished her drive and consolidated the money. The small coffee can she handed over to me and my sister-in-law had a slit in the lid and was decorated with pink felt and ribbons, now a little smudged from handling. Inside were several hundred dollars in small bills. We burst into tears. This is social policy in the richest nation in the history of the world.
I think of that every time I see one of those pickle jars by a cash register or hear of a benefit concert or bake sale to pay for someone’s medical bills. As I observed in this post last year, this is a sure sign your healthcare system is broken. People in France and Norway don’t have to go begging to strangers to pay their medical bills.
But the executives at our major health insurance companies live in a bubble. As the survey I received from BCBS indicates, they really want to stay there, too.