Update: Proposed Blue Cross Blue Shield Legislation

In response to a package of bills being considered to reform Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) (House Bills 5282-5285) a coalition of strange bedfellows was introduced in Lansing this week, called the Put People Over Profits Coalition (www.PutPeopleOverProfits.com). PPOP is a collection of consumer advocates, insurance companies and business leaders, all of which are opposed to this package of bills.

The 40+ groups in the PPOP Coalition include the Area Agencies on Aging Association, Michigan Disability Rights Coalition, Michigan Association of Health Plans, UAW, Michigan Chamber of Commerce, AARP, Aetna, Citizens Insurance, Michigan State Medical Society, Michigan Osteopathic Association, Delta Dental and Michigan Insurance Coalition.

Editorials against the bills have appeared in Crain’s Detroit Business, the Grand Rapids Press, Saginaw News and Flint Journal

At a Capitol press conference, PPOP urged the Legislature to maintain the charitable mission of BCBSM and keep insurance affordable and accessible to seniors and people with health conditions. “Older and sicker residents will be priced out of the insurance market if the Blues bills become law,” according to Mary Ablan, Director of the Area Agencies on Aging Association and PPOP Co-Chair. “When it comes to providing affordable access to health care, having as much as 30 cents of every premium dollar siphoned off for profits is unconscionable.” said Co-Chair RoAnne Chaney of the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition.

“The last Attorney General intervention in early 2007 reduced a Blue Cross rate increase request from 50% to 19%, saving older Michiganians and persons with disabilities about $97.5 million in the first year and about $70 million thereafter,” noted Dolores Coulter, attorney and Chair of the Elder Law and Disability Rights Section of the State Bar of Michigan. Coulter is speaking about one aspect of the legislation that would allow BCBSM to raise premiums at will, without state approval or the oversight of the Attorney General.

After the press conference, the Senate Health Policy Committee heard testimony from BCBSM praising the bills, and two coalitions of insurance companies opposing them. Committee Chair Tom George, M.D. questioned the need for a risk pool and the other dramatic changes in the bills since Michigan has lower insurance premiums than most states and a lower percentage of uninsured. Next week, the committee will hear testimony from Attorney General Mike Cox and the Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Services. The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, February 6, 3 – 5 pm, in the Senate Hearing Room on the Ground Floor of Boji Tower, 124 W. Allegan Street in downtown Lansing

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