“When I was growing up, it seemed that everybody who had health insurance had a Blue Cross plan,” Wendell Potter writes over at his Substack. “Every state had a Blues plan, every one of them was a nonprofit, and their policies were comparatively cheap and comprehensive. That seems downright quaint when you consider what has happened to the Blues as more and more of them, starting in 1992 with Blue Cross of California, began to ditch their nonprofit status. Many of them, including the giant Blue Cross of California, are now owned by an Indianapolis-based corporation that has grown to be the second largest in the industry in terms of health plan membership. It is also one of the most profitable. That company, Anthem, Inc., which operates Blues plans in 15 states, reported last Wednesday that its 2021 profits totaled $6.1 billion on revenues of $136.9 billion. That’s more than twice the $2.6 billion in profits the company reported making 10 years ago (when the company was still known as WellPoint, Inc.). When I was a kid, many if not most folks, including my parents, bought their Blue Cross policies on their own, without any financial assistance from an employer (or the government for that matter). Relatively few employers back then, especially in rural areas and small towns, offered subsidized coverage to their workers. And to my knowledge, the Blues didn’t have anyone anywhere covered in a health plan subsidized by taxpayers. That began to change in the 1980s when President Reagan and Congressional Republicans began what would be a years-long and increasingly successful effort to privatize the Medicare program. Privatization of Medicaid began a few years later when states began contracting with private insurers to manage their taxpayer-financed health insurance program for low-income individuals and families. My home state of Tennessee was among the first to do that when it created TennCare in 1994 and tapped Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee to administer it.)What a difference a few decades can make. When you look closely at the numbers Anthem disclosed last week, you’ll discover that 61% of the company’s nearly $137 billion in revenues came from the government–or more precisely, from the federal and state taxes you and I paid last year.” Wendell Potter, “Socialism for Them: 60% of Anthem’s 2021 revenue was subsidized by American taxpayers,” Wendell Potter NOW, Substack.
Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded ClearHealthCosts.
She was previously a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia University School of Journalism. ClearHealthCosts has won grants from the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York; the International Women’s Media Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with KQED public radio in San Francisco and KPCC in Los Angeles; the Lenfest Foundation in Philadelphia for a partnership with The Philadelphia Inquirer; and the New York State Health Foundation for a partnership with WNYC public radio/Gothamist in New York; and other honors.
Her TED talk about fixing health costs has surpassed 2 million views.