We’ve been telling you about the campaign by Blue Cross Blue Shield to enlist its customers to lobby against health-care reform — an effort now being probed by state authorities.
But a very similar effort by another Blue Cross licensee seems to have flown under the radar until now.
A small business owner in the Kansas-City area who carries BCBS insurance for her employees forwards us a letter she received earlier this month from BCBS of Kansas City. The letter, from Tom Bowser, the CEO of BCBS-KC, describes the public option as an “unnecessary government intrusion in the private financing of health-care,” which will “cause millions to lose their current private coverage,” and will create “long waits for service with some providers closing their doors.”
Bowser also informs recipients that BCBS-KC contracted with an actuarial firm to produce a study on the impacts of health-care reform. Unsurprisingly, this study found that reform would increase costs, but also that strong mandates — an aspect of reform supported by insurers — are necessary.
Bowser closes by telling recipients: “I am asking that you personally engage on these issues by calling or writing your member of Congress.” A sample letter to lawmakers, which expresses “deep concern” about reform, follows Bowser’s letter.
It seems likely that the mailer went to individual customers in the Kansas-City area, as well as businesses. Unlike BCBS-NC, the Kansas City company is not orgained as a non-profit, meaning it likely has fewer restrictions on its ability to do political advocacy. And there’s no evidence that robo-calls — the other way in which BCBS-NC may have run afoul of the law — were used here.
Still, as we’ve noted before, a health-insurer enlisting customers in a legislative campaign is unfairly playing on its customers’ vulnerability. When the institution on which you depend for health insurance directs you to take action, you may feel some pressure to do so. The government this fall investigated another health insurer, Humana, for sending letters to beneficiaries urging them to lobby lawmakers against proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage.
BCBS-KC did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the mailer.