Defending insurers is a bit like expressing sympathy for the devil, given how their premiums have skyrocketed. Not so long ago, this page blasted Blue Shield of California for proposing three rate hikes in quick succession that threatened to raise some customers' premiums by nearly 60%. Since then, however, the nonprofit has pledged to cap its net income at 2% of its revenue. The cap means that any future increases in premiums will be driven by higher charges from doctors and hospitals, not by increases in Blue Shield's operating margins.
Hospitals costs have risen particularly rapidly, with the average daily fee for a bed in an acute-care ward more than tripling since 2000. UCLA's reimbursements from Blue Shield have almost doubled in the last five years alone, the insurer says. That's partly because the university has been shifting onto Blue Shield some of the expense of treating patients with Medicare, Medi-Cal or no insurance. But it's a trend that even University of California officials acknowledge cannot continue.
One more culprit occurs to me: I and my fellow discretionary overweight insured. I can hold down health care costs and insurance premiums by losing 30 pounds and reducing the chances and expenses of adult-onset diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke. I decided this morning I couldn't wait for Lent. Hold me accountable, reader!