Another year, another NC Blue Cross pay hike. In the latest report, according to Tim Simmons in today’s News and Observer, it’s $7.2 million in bonuses for top executives. This at a nonprofit that at one time described itself as “a community project whose motive was never pecuniary gain for those who promoted it.”
Once a year NC Blue’s pay hikes and compensation are reported and there always follows a flurry of anger. People can’t understand an insurance system that uses 16 cents of every dollar they pay in premiums not to provide healthcare but to finance charging them higher rates every year, making coverage as complex as possible, and paying huge bonuses to top executives.
It’s a moral issue. Blue Cross executives, secure in their enormous wealth, generous company health benefits, and outsize influence in state politics, have little incentive to consider the worries of their fellow citizens. It’s easy for them to brush off occasional criticism and child’s play to block moves in the NC Legislature to bring their company and its pay practices under greater scrutiny.
Hundreds of thousands of these executives’ fellow North Carolinians face skyrocketing insurance rates, ever increasing deductibles, and the prospect of losing coverage altogether if they change or lose their job. In the face of this threat to our people and our economy how is the leadership team at nonprofit NC Blue reacting? Are Blue Cross executives leading the charge to guarantee coverage for all children? No. Are Blue Cross executives working for a premium rebate to all Blue Cross policyholders like their predecessors did in the 1980s? No. Are Blue Cross executives helping develop a plan that would guarantee a choice of affordable health plans to everyone in North Carolina? No.
How can executives at a nonprofit health insurance company started to help North Carolinians afford coverage justify millions in bonuses for themselves and their colleagues when thousands of sick children in our state cannot see a doctor because their family can’t afford the bill?
It’s not right. But, given recent history, there isn’t going to be much criticism of their actions. It will all blow over by next week.