Press Release

Patients and RNs to March on Blue Shield HQ to Protest Rate Hike Outrage

For Immediate Release
January 30, 2011

Cite Blue Shield’s Outlier Role in Pushing Through Rate Hikes
Blue Shield Denied Two Million Patient Claims Last Yea

(SAN FRANCISCO) California patients hurt by Blue Shield’s efforts to sharply hike rates will join members of the California Nurses Association and local healthcare advocates at a major protest against Blue Shield’s actions.

WHAT: Local Patients and Nurses Slam Blue Shield’s Practices

WHEN: Tuesday, Feb. 1, 11:00 a.m.

WHERE: Blue Shield San Francisco HQ, 50 Beale St.

Local patients will describe the direct harm they will suffer or have suffered as a result Blue Shield’s unethical business practices, and will be joined by nurses and healthcare advocates making the case for fundamental reform and an end to the “health tyranny” of the Blue Shields of the world.

Patients, nurses, and consumer advocates will condemn Blue Shield’s decision to ignore widespread opposition to its outlandish rate hikes of up to 59 percent for individuals at a time even other major insurers are delaying premium increases.

Nurses will also present new data revealing that, in addition to its price gouging, Blue Shield denied two million patient claims last year, and present calls for much greater transparency and accountability by Blue Shield, which refuses to release details of its executive compensation.

“Blue Shield’s behavior is Exhibit A that the private insurance system is a failed business model,” said CNA/NNU Co-president DeAnn McEwen, RN.  “Until we can enact a more humane healthcare system based on patient need rather than insurance industry profits we are likely to continue to see such routine abuses by Blue Shield and the other insurance corporations.”

Blue Shield in January announced rate hikes for individual patients of up to 59 per cent, following other sharp premium increases in September 2010 and January 2011.  Blue Shield refused a request from California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones to temporarily delay the increase so that it could be studied, and ducked calls from outside groups to reveal the salaries of its top executives, including CEO Bruce Bodaken, or explain its hoarding of nearly $3 billion of “excess revenue.”

Nurses will discuss how Blue Shield’s practices illustrate the ongoing reckless behavior of the private insurance giants, and serve as a reminder of the need for far-reaching healthcare reform to remove the stranglehold of private insurers on our healthcare system.

Some of the patient stories that will be unveiled at the event include:

  • A 49-year-old mother of two who has seen her Blue Shield premiums jump from $979/month to $1660/month, leading her to note that, “If healthcare for small business owners or individuals like ourselves are raised like this, the feasibility of owning a small business (the American Dream?) is seriously jeopardized…We are the poster children for the struggle for affordable healthcare in this country.”
  • An RN with over 30 years experience was dropped from her Blue Shield policy after she was diagnosed with two rare and aggressive stage 4 cancers. She ended up with $800,000 of medical bills until she was able to qualify for her husband’s VA plan, which saved her life.  
  • A young Menlo Park family has faced a 73 percent rate increase from Blue Shield in just one year, from $447/month to $777/month…for a bare-bones plans with a high deductible of $8000.  The self-employed father points out, “We jog, eat mostly vegetarian, and don’t smoke…the cost of health insurance is a huge obstacle to being an entrepreneur in America.”
  • A 35 year-old Alameda-based small business owner, with a  three-year-old son, has faced rate increases of $224 since January, bringing her premium to $644/month despite her family’s perfect health record. This is prohibitively expensive, making health coverage unaffordable for her family.

“Blue Shield offers no value to the healthcare I provide,” said CNA/NNU Co-president DeAnn McEwen, RN.  “Blue Shield is not on the hospital floors, saving lives and caring for the infirm.  They don’t hold the hands of people in pain, or explain treatments to family members.”