Missouri Jobs with Justice, Labor leaders, healthcare advocates participate in Care Over Cost day of action

DEMANDING BLUE CROSS BLUE SHIELD stop denying claims and overturn any existing denials for treatments recommended by medical professionals, Missouri Jobs with Justice, Labor leaders and healthcare advocates participated in a Care Over Cost Day of Action May 9, rallying outside Blue Cross Blue Shield in St. Louis. – Philip Deitch photo

By TIM ROWDEN
Editor-in-Chief

St. Louis – Missouri Jobs with Justice, Labor leaders and healthcare advocates participated in a Care Over Cost Day of Action May 9 and rallied at private health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) to demand the corporation stop denying care to its policy holders and put people over profit.

BCBS is part of the Elevance Health, formerly Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, a profiteering empire whose business model relies on denying policy holders care. Last year, Elevance reported $8.5 billion in profits. The Care Over Cost action came the day before Elevance Health’s Shareholder Meeting.

A crowd of Labor leaders, clergy, BCBS policy holders, and healthcare advocates attempted to deliver their demands to Blue Cross Blue Shield in St. Louis – they were met with locked doors.

“I pay for my healthcare. I pay my deductible. I am a father of six and have a son with Cystic Fibrosis – and you won’t come out and talk to me?” said Ben Harman, a Blue Cross Blue Shield member, AFT Local 420 organizer and veteran. “Come talk to us!”

Fellow BCBS policy holders pulled out their insurance cards and began chanting as the BCBS representatives refused to meet with their insurance-card-carrying policy holders.

At the event, Labor leaders from American Federation of Teachers Local 420, SEIU Local 1, and Fight for $15 joined Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice, veterans, healthcare advocates, and community policy holders who marched, shared their healthcare stories and chanted “Who are you, to decide, if we live, or if we die?”

Missouri Jobs with Justice (MO JWJ) is a member of People’s Action Care Over Cost campaign that organizes people across the country to appeal and overturn insurance claim denials from private health insurers and get people the care they need.

PROFITEERING
In a letter organizers attempted to deliver on May 9, People’s Action & MO JWJ noted:

  • Over 91 percent of people in America are covered by health insurance and 76 percent of people in America have insurance through a private health insurance corporation.
  • Private health insurance companies deny care for their policy holders well over 248 million times annually. This averages out to more than once per covered member.
  • Increasingly, the major barrier to people receiving care is not lack of health insurance but the private health insurance companies themselves.
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) covers 115 million people, likely making it the largest denier of care to people in America. BCBS plans have some of the highest denial rates on the ACA marketplace.
  • These care denials result in significant suffering for tens of millions of people annually in the form of medical debt, bankruptcy, ongoing sickness or injury and even early death. Meanwhile BCBS affiliated companies rake in tens of billions in profits, while purchasing billions of dollars in shares to inflate prices and over-compensate executives. These profits are taken through inflated premiums from their policy holders.
  • Elevance Health, the largest BCBS affiliate (formerly known as Anthem BCBS), reported making more than $23 billion in profits and paying out more than $4.49 billion in cash dividends from 2017 through 2021. Additionally, in this time period Elevance repurchased and retired $9.98 billion worth of its stock, another way to reward shareholders and executives by making their shares more valuable. In 2021 alone, Elevance reported bringing in more than $6.1 billion in profit after paying expenses and taxes and paying out more than $1.15 billion in dividends to shareholders.
  • Elevance Health’s CEO Gail Boudreaux took $19,348,241 in compensation in 2021 and stands to take $59 million in a golden parachute if she is terminated even if for “Good Reason” as defined by the company.

SPECIFIC DEMANDS
Calling the profiteering from care denials is a disgrace, organizers are demanding Elevance BCBS:

  • Stop denying claims and overturn any existing denials for treatments recommended by medical professionals.
  • Provide transparency around denied claims/prior-authorizations by market, state, geography, gender and race.
  • Share monetary value of total denied claims/pre-authorizations broken down by internal and external appeals processes and total percentage of profits taken by denying care for their policy holders.
  • Hold monthly open microphone meetings with policyholders to discuss problems with insurance products.
  • Relinquish ownership of, and transfer over, the claim and appeals process to relevant public authorities.
  • And reverse the specific care and claim denials in cases from New York to Missouri.

 

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