The mask is off
It is no coincidence that Highmark and Keystone insurance plans are requesting a rate increase now. The dust hasn't settled yet, but it has become increasingly obvious that there will be no effective public option health-care plan passed this year. So they feel free to continue to raise rates.
Now that the threat of effective competition seems to be receding, who's to stop them? After months of attempting to seem reasonable, they can now take off the mask and start vacuuming up any loose money consumers and employers have left.
They and their allies, both witting and witless, have opened the floodgates. They presented people with a picture of "socialism" to frighten them. What they didn't present was a picture of their goal -- monopoly capitalism in their field. And their wealth is reflected in the amounts of money they had available to spend on advertising and propaganda to ensure that they maintained their positions.
We're going to have to redefine "nonprofit."
It is unbelievable and immoral that the nonprofits Highmark and Keystone West are asking for rate hikes of 15 to 30 percent while they have after-expense (profits) income of almost $100 million and they have $3.1 billion in cash reserves.
In addition, their executives are drawing down million-dollar salaries.
This is while people are struggling to meet basic needs. Raising insurance premiums will be the tipping point for many.
I urge the state Insurance Department to flatly turn down Highmark's and Keystone's requests for rate hikes. I believe they are trying to foist the costs of their unsuccessful bid to merge with Blues from the other end of the commonwealth.
I believe as tax-exempt nonprofits, they have a legal and moral obligation to bring their after-expense income more in line with the obligation to at least attempt to keep after-expense revenue to a point where it is not almost $100 million while maintaining cash reserves in the billions -- especially while so many people in Pennsylvania are struggling to keep from going broke.
I am especially concerned about the rate increase for seniors and others on fixed incomes, especially Social Security, who depend upon Medicare and have bought Medigap policies. How many will end up having to decide whether to pay a premium or pay for food, heat and electricity?