I find Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon deeply irritating.
I don't feel this way about any other companies my wife and I do business with. Some I'm basically neutral about, such as State Farm Insurance, while others seem like a good friend -- notably Apple.
But Regence of Oregon is a necessary evil in our lives.
I'd ditch this malevolent entity instantly if it weren't for the pre-existing condition trap on individual health insurance policies like we have, so we're stuck with Regence for three more years until we'll be joyfully eligible for Medicare.
Regence of Oregon's newest mind-boggling outrage upon its individual policy-holders is an insanely large 22.1% rate increase request that'd take effect August 1, 2011 if it is approved.
This follows a string of annual rate increases over the past four years that ranged from 16% to 24%, way over the general inflation rate. Also, way over the health care inflation rate.
I learned this last disturbing fact thanks to Regence of Oregon's own Twitter feed, where an employee has the thankless job of trying to post upbeat tweets about her appallingly depressing company.
On May 12 I read:
What’s driving higher health care costs? New report offers some answers that might surprise you http://n.pr/lbrNiA
Well, what surprised me the most in this NPR article, given Regence's 22.1% rate increase request, is that health care costs "only" increased 7.3% last year. So why is Regence asking for almost three times that?
Apparent answer: greed.
Yesterday the New York Times reported that even though insurance companies are raking in record profits, they still are out to raise their prices substantially. (Their CEOs must be ex-oil company executives.)
Yet the companies continue to press for higher premiums, even though their reserve coffers are flush with profits and shareholders have been rewarded with new dividends. Many defend proposed double-digit increases in the rates they charge, citing a need for protection against any sudden uptick in demand once people have more money to spend on their health, as well as the rising price of care.
Oh my. Yes, it'd be terrible if people had enough money to use their health insurance to get necessary medical care.
This is what my wife and I have learned from dealing with Regence of Oregon over the years: this health insurance company is dedicated to providing its policy-holders with as little health care as possible.
Why? Because every premium dollar spent reduces the amount Regence can spend on administrative costs and squirrel away as reserves (a.k.a. "profits"). Take a look at the Oregon Insurance Division's posting of the 22.1% rate increase request.
Regence of Oregon's administrative costs are 20%.
So right off the bat every premium dollar policy-holders like us send to Regence turns into 80 cents that's available for providing health care. And from painful experience my wife and I know that Regence of Oregon is an inefficient bureaucracy, so much of the company's administrative overhead is wasted.
Public comments on the outrageous rate increase can be made here. I was one of the first (# 7) to do so, saying:
Every year we get double digit rate increases from Regence, along with lousier customer service. This includes last year, when rates stayed about the same only because benefits decreased by the equivalent of double digits. [Also, because we raised our deductible subtantially.] Regence stopped paying for my wife's Restasis (dry eye) medication on July 1, 2010 after forcing individual policy holders to switch to their crappier "Evolve" plans, which really were a devolution.
She was able to win an appeal only after going through horrendous bureaucratic roadblocks with Regence, which is terribly managed. No one knows what anyone else is doing. Inefficiencies abound at Regence, as is obvious to anyone who phones them with even a simple request.
On my side, I saw that another commenter on the rate increase noted how Regence doesn't really have an emphasis on prevention, because it won't pay for services that actually prevent a problem. Such as my colonoscopy, which involved removing a benign polyp -- a central benefit of a screening colonoscopy. So far Regence considers this a "medical procedure" if a polyp is quickly snipped out, leaving me with a bill for the entire colonoscopy.
Ridiculous. I'm tired of paying tons of money to a health insurance company which clearly is dedicated to providing as little health care to its policy holders as possible. Then they have the gall to demand a 22% rate increase after spending the past year trying to deliver as few services as they can within the bounds of legality and ethics -- bounds which Regence tries to stretch at every opportunity.