Protestors to gather in front of four Florida BCBS offices today

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On Tuesday, protestors are scheduled to gather in front of Blue Cross Blue Shield offices in Tampa, Ft. Myers, Orlando, and West Palm Beach to bring scrutiny to BCBS’s role in directing Enroll America, the non-profit entity created to shepherd people into insurance policies through federal exchanges.

It is no secret that BCBS stands to benefit greatly from federal health care reforms under Obamacare, but according to Americans for Prosperity Florida state director Slade O’Brien, the mega-insurer is going about it in a way that is not so kosher.

BCBS has executives on Enroll America’s board of directors. Using Enroll America’s tax exempt status, BCBS and other board members are able to contribute to the entity receiving a tax deduction, while using the entity to sell their own products for a profit.  And in BCBS’s case, this is not small potatoes profit.  To O’Brien, this “clear collusion” between BCBS and Enroll America represents inurment — which is illegal.

“As a board member, Blue Cross and Blue Shield is running an organization that is advocating for people to buy a product they sell,” O’Brien said in a statement. “Blue Cross and Blue Shield will pad their pockets with new taxpayer-subsidized insurance policies, while citizens lose jobs and businesses are unable to hire and expand. This is just one more example of the disastrous effects of the President’s signature healthcare law on Florida’s families.”

As discussed previously in this SPB column, BCBS is hoping to capture the lion’s share of new health plan enrollees through state and federal exchanges, and will succeed at least in part due to the growing reluctance of other major insurers to jump in.  While various other insurers such as UnitedHealth Group and Aetna have scaled back their expected participation in exchanges due to growing reluctance, and even declined to join a closed White House meeting with President Obama in April, BCBS is getting aggressive in its efforts to capture what the industry refers to as “lives”.  They will participate in nearly every state exchange, are doubling the number of call center employees and opening retail centers and storefronts in key neighborhoods, and are taking a “get out the vote” approach to enrollment.

While not the subject of tomorrow’s AFP protests, there are other problematic features of this process (such as the lack of actual variety being offered between and within insurer plans).  

From noon until 1:00 p.m., protestors will be at: Florida Blue, 201 N. Westshore Blvd, Tampa; Florida Blue at the Winter Park Village, 434 N. Orlando Ave, Orlando; BCBS Office at the Atrium Executive Center, 8695 College Parkway, Ft. Myers; and Florida Blue, 2247 Palm Beach lakes Blvd, West Palm Beach.

Karen Cyphers, PhD, is a public policy researcher, political consultant, and mother to three daughters. She can be reached at karen@cyphersgroup.com.

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