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Not worthy of the Cross and Shield

March 17, 2004

    This is Perry Deane Young. Like you, I’m sure, I was shocked to read that our so-called non-profit health insurance company had made a whopping profit of $195 million last year. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina was already considered the most profitable health insurer in America with a profit of 4 cents on the dollar. Now, the state’s largest health insurance company has recorded an even greater profit of 6.2 cents on the dollar. The company has explained the profits are needed for research and expanded services.

    However, Adam Searing, director of the North Carolina Health Access Coalition, says this is ludicrous. According to Searing, the profits for Blue Cross and Blue Shield should never be higher than 2 or 3 per cent. The company bragged that premiums had been increased only by 9 or 10 per cent in the past quarter, but failed to mention that premiums had increased by 15, 20, and 25 per cent in the quarters before that. As Searing said: “After a frog’s been boiling in water for a while, it doesn’t feel so hot.”

     Of course, the higher premiums go, the more people will not be able to afford health insurance. Already, 16.8 per cent of all North Carolinians are without health coverage in our state. More than 250,000 children in North Carolina have no access to health care at all. This was precisely the gap that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina was set up to fill in the 1930s. The current executives of the organization have turned one of the state’s most honorable institutions into just another greedy corporation.

    Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s own history describes it as “a community project whose motive was never pecuniary gain for those who promoted it. This enterprise was designed to make available the proper medical attention needed for persons who could least afford it….” Affordable health care is needed now more than ever. Let’s hope that state officials will take a long hard look at the ludicrous profits of Blue Cross and Blue Shield and force the company to go back to its founding purpose. This is Perry Deane Young.