Protesters visit BCBSNC to urge a public option
Fifty-plus passionate protesters gathered Wednesday morning in front of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina headquarters on U.S. 15-501 to protest the insurer’s opposition to a publicly funded health care option. The public option is intended to provide a lower-cost alternative for quality health care and is a key plank in President Obama’s health care reform platform.
In recognition of “We Can’t Wait for Affordable Health Care” day, state employees and other concerned citizens turned out to hear several speakers, voice their own concerns and wave signs to the commiserating horns of passing motorists.
The event was sponsored by the State Employees Association of North Carolina in conjunction with the Service Employees International Union’s “Change that Works” campaign. Blue Cross runs the state’s health care plan for its employees and recently drew criticism after higher than expected costs for the plan led to higher premiums, co-pays and deductibles.
SEANC Executive Director Dana Cope exhorted those in favor of affordable health care in general, and a public option in particular, to band together” and be heard.
“We need Blue Cross to stop using our premiums to prevent real health care reform and to stop standing in the way of a public option,” said Adam Searing of the of the N.C. Justice Center’s Health Access Coalition.
Searing was referring to advertisements Blue Cross has had produced, but that haven’t aired, warning against the potential effects of a public option. Storyboards of those ads were published by The Washington Post. Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina has a 72.5 percent market share of individual and employer-provided health insurance in North Carolina.
In response to the protest, Blue Cross officials reiterated the company’s position that while it supports many aspects of the reform legislation, it opposes the public option because it would create an uneven playing field for insurance companies who would have to compete with a public plan.
At the protest, many were as angry with politicians as they were insurers.
“The people are ahead of the politicians on this one,” said protester Lauri Hoyt of Carrboro.
“Politicians need to start listening to what the people want and what they desperately need instead of to those who finance their campaigns.”
“Nobody should work a lifetime and end up being in debt over medical bills,” said Cheryl Moon, who was attending with her friend Jerry Thompson, both retired state employees. Thompson, who is a Vietnam veteran, suffers from an illness that has required 23 visits to Wake Medical Center in the past 20 months. Escalating medical costs have been a major factor in his decision to declare bankruptcy. Moon presented what she called a “box of bankruptcy,” which contained bills Thompson has incurred for his treatments.
“We want to let people know that just because you have medical care, you don’t necessarily have adequate coverage,” Moon said, adding that state employees need a public option.
Moon said she wanted Blue Cross to “recognize that their system’s not working for the average person. We’ve got to see a change.”
“I’m really energized,” Searing said of Wednesday’s turnout.
“Blue Cross seems so powerful. But to see so many people out shows that people are angry,” he added, as a passing service van sounded its horn.