Thursday, March 17, 2011

Shining The Light

I whine a lot about the mainstream media, especially the Los Angeles Times, because of the failure of the press to do their job, which is to keep the public informed of what's really going on. I do, however, have to admit that my home town newspaper has done a superlative job in covering health insurance costs and scams here in California. Today the Times did it again, this time focusing on Blue Shield and its decision to cancel a premium hike.

On Wednesday, Blue Shield withdrew a planned May 1 rate hike for individual policyholders that would have averaged 6.5% and gone as high as 18%, saving customers $35 million to $40 million this year. That increase followed other recent hikes that, cumulatively, would have driven up rates as much as 86.5% since October.

The rate hikes had triggered widespread criticism since they were first disclosed by The Times in January.
[Emphasis added]

And it wasn't just the disclosure of the proposed hikes on individual policies that was important, it was also that the Times did its homework and pointed out that the raise in premiums came as the insurance industry nationwide continued to be enormously profitable. Duke Helfand did more of that in today's article.

Blue Shield of California's decision to cancel a big rate hike for nearly 200,000 people followed mounting pressure from the public and political leaders. But an unforeseen factor may have made the retreat easier for the company to accept: It's paying out less for medical claims than it had anticipated.

And it's not just Blue Shield. Major insurers including WellPoint Inc. and Aetna Inc. also say that medical spending has been lower than projected recently, saving the companies millions of dollars in payouts.

Company officials say that is largely because people are going to the doctor less. Many have switched to cheaper policies that require them to shoulder a greater share of the cost — and that has them thinking twice about discretionary visits.
[Emphasis added]

That's that's the bad news: people aren't getting to the doctor often enough to take care of small problems before they get to be more expensive big problems. Still, however, Duke Helfand reported that fact as well as the fact that people are having to take policies with higher deductibles and copays just to have coverage for catastrophic and bankrupting medical crises.

My point is that by shining the light on health insurance companies and their gouging practices, the Times is doing what, unfortunately, the state's insurance commissioner is not yet able to do: protecting the public. And the Times has been doing a fine job in that respect for several years now.

Well done.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home