Every year I look forward to reading Regence Blue Cross' "Re: Your Annual Plan Renewal" letter. Not because I like the news about how much more money they'll be sucking out of our checking account every month.
No, I enjoy seeing what half-assed excuses our health insurance provider came up with this time to justify their exorbitant premium increase.
For 2006-07, it was 12.5%. For 2005-06, 11.8%. Inflation has been running around three percent, right?. So how does Regence explain the extra 9% or so?
The cost of health care – hospitalizations, doctors' services, prescriptions, diagnostic tests – continues to rise.
Wow! Thanks for the news! You've been charging us from 10% to 20% more each year for as long as I can remember. I already know the cost of health care is rising, thanks to your absurdly high premium increases. Try another reason.
As we grow older, our costs of care increase. These costs are reflected in changes to premium rates by age group.
OK, this helps explain some of the rate of increase. But it doesn't answer my big question: "Why the hell does it cost us two generally healthy and fit late-50 year olds $603 a month for a middling generous insurance plan?" Other countries can do it for a lot less.
Well, Bonnie Hass, Director of Customer Service, didn't explain that her salary, along with the thousands of other worker bees in the Regence Blue Cross administrative hive, none of whom provide an iota of actual medical care, are the biggest reason why the United States health system is so horribly costly and inefficient.
Physicians for a National Health Program lays out the facts concisely.
The U.S. spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care, $7,129 per capita. Yet our system performs poorly in comparison and still leaves 46 million without health coverage and millions more inadequately covered.
This is because private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume one-third (31 percent) of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment though a single nonprofit payer would save more than $350 billion per year, enough to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans.
Bingo. The real reason our Regence Blue Cross premiums are so expensive is Regence Blue Cross itself. Along with all of the other insurance companies whose only reason for existence is to serve as an unnecessary middleman between health care patients and providers.
It's depressing to realize what a mess this country's health care system is in. Fortunately, now there seems to be more of a genuine commitment to fixing things, both on the state and federal level.
If the Democrats can maintain political control here in Oregon, and we get a Democratic president come November '08, I'll be feeling better about what we'll be paying for health care for the rest of our lives.
Until then, Regence Blue Cross says they're looking out for me – and all the other plan subscribers who get their "Your Annual Plan Renewal" letter and react with a Holy @#$%&!
We also recognize the importance of emotional health for our members and added support for depression and anxiety to these same plans.
Thanks, Ms. Hass. That's kind of you. However, what I really need to relieve my anxiety about what we're paying for health care is a single-payer health system for the United States.
That way I'll never have to read another of your rate increase letters again, which aren't good for my emotional health.