Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Latest Scam

While the Republican candidates for the 2012 presidential nomination are all busy claiming to be the best at rolling back Obamacare, it's instructive to note the latest moves by those who will be the prime beneficiaries of any such roll back, the insurance companies. Because profit always come first for these corporations, they have to find new and creative ways to increase incoming cash from policy holders, and Anthem Blue Cross of California has found the latest way to do that.

As David Lazarus notes in his latest column for the Los Angeles Times, the company has decided that paying those pesky credit card fees for premium payments made by the policy holders is a drag, so they've found a way around it.

Anthem announced a few months ago that it planned to stop allowing members to automatically pay their bills by credit card. For those still wanting to use plastic, they could call a service rep each month and give their card number over the phone, although this would entail a $15 "convenience fee."

After I first reported the policy change, for which Anthem repeatedly declined to provide a rationale, many readers speculated that the insurer may be trying to dodge costly credit card processing fees. Some also wondered whether Anthem was trying to make it easier to get rid of members who might miss a payment.

The company said it would reconsider the $15 fee only after I reported that California law says no business "in any sales, service or lease transaction with a consumer may impose a surcharge on a cardholder who elects to use a credit card in lieu of payment by cash, check or similar means."


Well, I think it fair to say that Anthem won't be charging that convenience fee, at least not until they get the state legislature to carve out an exemption for insurance premium payments (don't laugh ... it could happen). The company is still, however, refusing to accept automatic payments from credit cards. If the policy holder fails to convert the automatic payments to their checking accounts, and if the payment isn't made within 31 days, the policy is canceled.

Lazarus details the story of one woman who didn't get the message to make that conversion and whose policy was canceled after more than ten years as a policy holder in good standing. It was restored after she pushed a little and after she gave them her checking account number. The irony is that she was exactly the kind of policy holder that insurance companies should love: she rarely, if ever, filed any claims. That didn't matter: those few pennies in credit card charges each month did.

If, as Mitt Romney and the US Supreme Court assert, corporations are people, entitled to the same rights as individuals, then this is one corporation which isn't a very good citizen. The state's Attorney General might want to look further at this "person" to see if there is some punishment due for such behavior.



Blogger PurpleGirl said...

If corporations are a "person" under the law, then it is entirely logical to develop a set of consequences involving jail time for upper management when a corporation breaks the law. Fines are fine as far as they go, but I think personhood should entail some limitation/restriction on free movement in society. If a robber gets jail time, so should a CEO who stands in for the corporation. Maybe they would think twice about some policies if their free movement was at stake.

Maybe not, but I think it's worth a try. And besides, fair is fair, if you want your corporation to have some rights as a person, there should be equal obligations and consequences to parallel those of natural persons.

6:22 AM  
Anonymous mike stern said...

the content of the articles there will be a lot of attractive people to appreciate

3:07 AM  

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