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$12 BILLION? Seeing red while health insurance companies are in the black

Moneygrab.JPGI've not jumped in to the health care reform fray here at Scope before. I think it's because it means so much to me. My family is covered, but by a high-deductible plan mainly for peace of mind in case of accidents (because I live out of California, I can't take advantage of some of the lower-cost plans offered by Stanford). As a result, I see my kids' sicknesses in dollars. Should we go to the doctor? Might it clear up by itself if we wait another day? And I have regular conversations with our family physician about the relative costs of medications and procedures. (Yes, we use a tax-free health care spending account, but the money still comes out of our pocket.) I hate it.

That's why I was so incensed to see the news yesterday - on the eve of today's bipartisan reform summit - that the five largest insurance companies posted combined profits of more than $12 billion in 2009. That's up 56% from 2008. Couple this with the unprecedented rate hikes (up to 39% in California by Anthem Blue Cross) planned by some of these very same companies, and you'll see why I'm yelling (or at least typing forcefully!).

So, I get that health care reform is complex. I get that insurance companies exist to make a profit. I get that there will be winners and there will be losers in any new system or plan, and that we need to be as equitable as possible. I get it. But when I read statistics like the ones above, I can't see straight.

Providing adequate health care for all our citizens is moral obligation. Period. Profits of that level when many in this country have been forced by rising rates to forgo any form of health insurance are unconscionable. Period. It's time for people like me to stand up and say something.

Via Spoonful of Medicine and HealthReform.gov
Photo by Steve Wampler

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