The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Blue Cross Retirees Continue to Fight Cuts

Dec 5, 2016

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) retirees are being put through the ringer. With little time left in 2016, and December deadlines to select new, individual insurance packages, retirees are fighting back and fighting for each other.

The retirees affected January 1st of 2017 are not alone in this fight. Union retirees have been involved at their side. While Blue Cross sold a load of crap to the public by pretending it is just a change in the delivery mode for the same health benefits, Blue Cross workers and retirees know better. After all, it is the workers and retirees that built the Blues Empire and understand benefits inside out. And using the oldest divide and rule tactic in the book, saying that union retirees and current union workers have a chance for better, hasn’t tricked workers into believing it.

The Blues has made it difficult-to-impossible for retirees to understand the extent of the cuts. Retirees still cannot get written explanations of the benefit packages they are forced to choose between. There are no written communications regarding how whatever reimbursement received from the Blues must be applied for, and retirees are told they will have to pay initial costs for premiums, etc, out of their own pockets until reimbursement can be made.

Retirees under age 65 are being quoted extremely high monthly premiums that the yearly stipend from the employer won’t even cover. While the charges differ based on age, illness, sex and area, some come to over a thousand dollars per month.

Out of state retirees who have no Blues plans in their state are being directed to the public marketplace with total confusion over how reimbursement works with non-Blues products! And Canadian retirees, who cannot participate in Health Savings Accounts by law, have no answers either.

Very ill and the catastrophically ill retirees have no way to calculate how many thousands of dollars in premiums and drug costs they will be responsible for beginning in January and throughout the year. Some are faced with bills of thousands of dollars per month for drugs alone.

Retirees have been helping each other to demand answers from Blue Cross and their vendor OneExchange. What is obviously true is that Blue Cross gave no thought to how all the problems of conversion would play out. Their “kissing cousins” in OneExchange promised to “handle it,” but they don’t. Blues employees could untangle the web of benefit complications that BCBSM has put in place over the years, but the contractor arrangement precludes it.

Clearly, this carrier’s job is to take apart a rich defined benefit package using “smoke and mirrors” to replace it with a lemon, so they are making up answers as they go.

While the fight seems almost impossible, and sick retirees are not in a good position to do it, they are fortified by their experience fighting BCBSM in the past and in servicing customers and groups for decades.

With the holidays fast approaching, there may be a lull in activity. But you can believe that the retirees continue to think, strategize and wait for any opportunity to arise to hit back at this massive attack. With any luck, BCBSM retirees will find a way to lock into the anger and frustration of larger groups of retirees—like the 200,000 Medigap recipients, who are also being robbed of their entitlements by Blue Cross Blue Shield.