The Phone Call From Blue Cross

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Ben Cohen
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Yesterday, I received an automated phone call from my health insurance provider, Anthem Blue Cross informing me that my premiums were about to go up due to 'increasing health care costs'. There was no indication as to how much they would be raising my rates, but upon a little research, I found out it would be up to 39% on top of what I am paying now, and that's after the 32% hike in 2008.

I'm 28 years old, have no medical history whatsoever, have never had a major surgery, don't take any medications, play sports regularly, don't smoke, drink very little, eat extremely well and have no family history of hereditary illnesses. Yet, my insurance rate is about to go up in one of the worst recessions in history.

Here's a question I'd like to ask Anthem Blue Cross:

How on earth do you expect your customers to pay you given the already ridiculously high rates you charge already?

The answer, of course, is that they don't give a damn whether you can or not. The rate hike is done with a very simple calculation: How much can we increase our bottom line? They take into account that some people will simply fall off the roster and join the millions of Americans without insurance, but also calculate that the increased rates will make up for this and more.

As Bob Cesca writes:

Anthem Blue Cross said that over the last five years, it's lost $3.7
million on individual policies. Oddly enough, its highest paid
executives in Maine took home a total of $4.3 million per year in
salary and bonuses. WellPoint's CEO takes home $9 million annually, and
the company reported a $4.75 billion profit -- in the fourth quarter of
2009 alone! This is hardly a company that's hurting financially.

According to free marketers, this is all well and good. The insurance companies are only trying to make a profit, and the fact that millions of people will either be priced out of health insurance, or crushed by existing costs is simply a byproduct of capitalism's genius. Regulating them would only lead to 'lack of innovation' despite the fact that no one could afford the packages that entitled them to designer drugs.

If this isn't a wake up call to the Democrats to re-insert the public option and ram a strong healthcare bill through the Senate using reconciliation, I don't know what is. The next round of rate increases will ruin the lives of millions of people already struggling under the current financial situation, and may tip the economy over the edge. Left to their own devices, these criminal organizations will continue to raise rates until the entire country is brought to its knees. And that moment in history is fast approaching, so President Obama and the Democrats in Washington must act. And act now.