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Bob Spencer, Published October 19 2013

Letter: Health care costs go up while benefits go down

With the national debate on health care leaving consumers with more questions than answers, it is difficult to listen to any news broadcast without hearing the warning, “insurance coverage is not the same as medical care.” Translated, the term means “just because you pay for an insurance policy doesn’t mean you will have access to a doctor, or your insurance will cover the cost of the procedure your doctor orders.”

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota is providing us with another example of why those warnings are necessary. BCBSND has already requested, and the North Dakota insurance commissioner has approved, changes to policies in 2014 that will reduce the coverage available to policyholders for addiction and mental health services. Have monthly premiums gone down in price? No! Actually, they have taken some large increases. With premiums going up, surely you were consulted before BCBS decreased your benefits. “No,” you say. You weren’t even notified?

“We are simply trying to stay competitive,” says “Big Blue,” which is not quite the truth. Instead, insurance companies like BCBS are attempting to stay profitable, which is much different. The strategy adopted by many insurance companies in the marketplace today, including BCBS, is to win the race to the bottom. Insurance companies make money by collecting premiums, not by paying claims. Their business model is “collect as much as you can, while paying out as little as possible.” Increase premiums and reduce benefits!

Insurance companies have always been good at the first, and are honing their skills on the second. After Jan. 1, 2014, should you or a member of your family need addiction or mental health services, don’t count on BCBS being there for you. Remember the warning, “insurance coverage is not the same as medical care.”

Spencer is with the Center for Solutions, Devils Lake, N.D.