Insurers must stop trading our well-being for profits

By David A. White Special to the BDN, Special to the BDN
Posted Nov. 06, 2009, at 6:30 p.m.

Did you know that Mainers already pay more per person toward health care through our combined state and federal taxes than the individuals of all other countries, except those of Luxembourg? Did you know that 23 other countries have better overall outcomes of care than we do, and that all 23 insure all of their people?

Now add our additional private premiums, such as from Anthem, and we’re paying approximately double per person for health care than the citizens of all other countries. Our system leaves nearly 50 million uninsured, and the quality of our care varies by highway exit.

In eight of the last 10 years, Anthem has increased premiums by double digits. Two of those years saw premiums increase more than 20 percent. On average, we are paying four times what we paid for health insurance since Anthem bought Maine’s nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield in 1998. Anthem has averaged $70 million a year in profit from Mainers during these 10 years.

Our wages have not kept up with inflation. The cost of medical goods and services has been rising 2½ to three times normal inflation each year. Yet Anthem seeks to sue the state of Maine (you and me) in order to raise health insurance premiums even higher.

We must stop Anthem, and all health insurance companies, from trading our well-being for Wall Street profits. I am not a television. My family is not a car. The health of our communities is not a commodity.

I travel our roads, though I didn’t personally pave them or make my car. I didn’t build our hospitals or teach our doctors. I repair the cars of my physician customers. Together with countless others, we all pay insurance so that we don’t have to worry about what it may cost when any of us gets sick.

Aren’t we civilized enough to recognize that health care is a basic human right? Don’t we already believe that it’s morally repulsive to deny care to anyone in need? Isn’t that why we already accept everyone, regardless of race, creed, citizenship or ability to pay, into our emergency departments?

This is about affirming the sanctity of life. It is about caring enough about each other to recognize that in a very real and tangible way I can’t separate my well-being from yours. This is about celebrating the rightness and goodness of what we, all of us, make happen together.

This isn’t really about Anthem. It is about who we are as a people. I say we are good and caring people, strong and confident enough in our independence to celebrate what we can and must do together. The fact that I, owner of a healthy, small auto repair business in Bar Harbor, can’t afford health insurance is fundamentally wrong. Anthem should be ashamed of itself. I insist that we need a viable public choice for health insurance now.

David A. White owns MDI Imported Car Service and is a spokesman for the more than 2,000 members of the Maine Small Business Coalition. He may be reached at importedcarsvc@roadrunner.com.

http://bangordailynews.com/2009/11/06/opinion/insurers-must-stop-trading-our-wellbeing-for-profits/ printed on December 25, 2014