Politics & Social Justice Archive


Will Patients Beat Blue Shield Again… This Time With the First Online Ballot Petition for Rate Regulation

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Shouldn’t the CEOs of health insurance companies like Blue Shield have to sign under penalty of perjury that their rate hikes are justified? If the first online signature gathering for a ballot petition is successful, Californians will vote on that proposition in November, and are almost sure to approve.

One year ago I stood at the Blue Shield headquarters in San Francisco with hundreds of patients and nurses angry at the health insurance company’s planned rate increases of as much as 86% for some policyholders. The outrage and spotlight were too much for the insurance company and Blue Shield backed down from the hikes that very morning. Today I am returning to the scene with a group of patients, who again face double-digit premium hikes from Blue Shield.

Guilt and shame only go to so far for health insurance companies. That’s why the patients will be signing a ballot petition this morning to force Blue Shield and other health insurance companies in California to publicly justify their rates, under penalty of perjury, and get approval before any rate hikes take effect. In California, health insurance companies can now raise rates at will. If Consumer Watchdog Campaign collects 505,000 signatures from the online ballot petition at JustifyRates.org, Californians can vote to require insurance companies to get approval before raising rates. That’s a proposal California’s legislature has failed to approve for the last half decade.

The health insurance rate regulation signature gathering effort is one of the first online volunteer efforts ever. Registered voters can print the short petition, sign it and return it at JustifyRates.org The experiment in on-line all volunteer signature gathering - combining email with a US mail rollout of petitions could change the balance of power in California’s health insurance industry. It’s attracted the attention and support of US Senator Diane Feinstein, who is emailing registered voters in California to seek their signatures online at JustifyRates.org

What’s particularly outrageous is Blue Shield, purportedly a nonprofit insurance company, is making more money than it knows what to do with. Blue Shield has $3.1 billion in excess surplus, 1400% more than the state requires, but still plans to raise rates on more than 200,000 policyholders. The problem is that unless our ballot initiative passes, Blue Shield does not have to ask permission to raise rates in California. Insurance companies can raise rates at will, whether California’s insurance commissioner approves or not.

Health insurance premiums in California have gone up 153% in the last decade, while inflation rose just 29%, according to the California HealthCare Foundation. 35 states have the power to reject unjustified health insurance rate increases but California does not.

Health insurance companies like Blue Shield will continue to sit on billions in cash while raising rates if they and their CEOs are not accountable to the public. Registered California voters can make them accountable at JustifyRates.org with a one page official ballot petition and a US postage stamp to mail it back.

Follow Jamie Court on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RaisingHellNow

Jamie Court is author of
The Progressive’s Guide To Raising Hell
.

California Democratic Lawmakers Revive Schwarzenegger Scam To Sell Off Historic State Properties in Order to Save Their Pay

Monday, June 20th, 2011

California’s Democratic state lawmakers announced a budget plan to keep their paychecks coming that included one of the worst ideas Arnold Schwarzenegger had since impregnating his kids’ nanny.

If lawmakers don’t pass a budget today, they lose their pay tomorrow. So Assembly Democrats have included in their hastily-assembled budget plan Schwarzenegger’s political love child, selling off treasured state properties to a group of politically-connected investors.

Schwarzenegger tried to sell off 24 historic state buildings — including the San Francisco Civic Center and the California Supreme Court – to his big campaign contributors. The Los Angeles Times reported the investors behind the so-called “California First” group contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Schwarzenegger’s political campaigns (Maria L. La Ganga, “$500,000 `Success Fee` Revealed In Proposed Sale of State Buildings,  Los Angeles Times, December 7, 2010)   The shady deal also included a half million dollar ‘finders fee’ to a local official.
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Schwarzenegger’s fire sale was stopped in the courts by legendary attorney Joe Cotchett. My group Consumer Watchdog recently feted Cotchett at our Rage for Justice Awards for the lawsuit and his lifetime of legal achievement.

This short video from the dinner about Cotchett’s role and his acceptance speech of the Phillip Burton Lifetime Legal Achievement Award expose the corruption, stupidity and infidelity to the state’s constitution behind the ploy to sell off state buildings only to pay investors to lease them back.

So what gives with the Assembly Democrats’ plan?   Is it just about passing any budget to get paid? Are the investors behind California First putting up more finder fees and political contributions?

Whatever the reason for this misstep, legislators should realize by now that following Schwarzenegger’s lead is a recipe for disaster.

Jamie Court is president of Consumer Watchdog and author of The Progressive’s Guide To Raising Hell.

Read the original post here.

Jamie Court is author of
The Progressive’s Guide To Raising Hell
.

Do-Not-Track-Online Goes On National Map With Rockefeller Bill

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller did the American people a great favor today by introducing the Do-Not-Track-Online Act of 2011.

iPhone and Android users should not have to worry about being spied on by their smart phones. We should be able to say no to Google and Facebook when they violate our privacy daily by tracking us online and collecting massive amounts of our private information without our explicit consent. That’s why Senator Rockefeller acted today.

Rockefeller is Chairman of the Senate Committee On Commerce, Science and Transportation, which has a history of passing important legislation like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the CAN-SPAM Act.

We cannot be stalked as we shop in brick-and-mortar stores. Yet whatever we do online is tracked, usually without our knowledge and consent. The data may help target advertising, but can also be used to make assumptions about people in connection with employment, housing, insurance and financial services; for purposes of lawsuits against individuals; and for government surveillance.

Last week the California Senate Judiciary Committee made history as the first legislative body in the nation to debate and move legislation forward that would allow us to say no to any company that wants to track us or our family online without our consent. The committee voted to send the landmark “Do Not Track” bill forward by a 3-2 vote.  California Senate Bill 761 would give us a way to send a “Do Not Track” message from our browsers, and websites would be required to honor it. But the problems is not limited to California.

Three of the four major browsers — Mozilla’s Firefox, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Apple’s Safari — have or will soon have a mechanism to send the Do Not Track message. Only Google with Chrome is resisting. The problem is there is no requirement that a website must honor the Do Not Track request.

A poll by Consumer Watchdog found that 90 percent of Americans want legislation to protect their online privacy, and 80 percent support a Do Not Track mechanism. Another 86 percent want a single-click button on their browsers that makes them anonymous when they search online.

Giving Americans a visible, uncomplicated choice to stop Internet companies from tracking us online will not end online advertising, but it will force advertisers to respect our personal boundaries. If that means fewer targeted sales of Viagra or shady mortgage refinance schemes, so be it. The Do Not Track Me movement is so important because it sets the principle and precedent of the first real governmental limits on the Wild West of Internet data mining. It establishes our right to be online without being tracked and makes clear the Internet has become a necessity of life that government must protect.

Privacy violations are not victimless. Identity theft has run rampant because so much of our personal information is available in so many places. Teenagers are particularly at risk because they tend to share too much information online. And our jobs, familial relationships and friendships can be jeopardized if information about our medical condition, sexual preferences or lifestyle choices is evident and available to anyone who can see the advertisements on our computer screens. Of course, some consumers may decide that they want their information gathered so they can have a more personally focused experience while on the Web. The point is it must be up to us whether and when our data are gathered.

“We also believe, as do most American businesses, that no company loses by respecting the wishes of its customers,” FTC Chairman John Leibowitz recently wrote. “Do Not Track will allow the Internet to continue to thrive while protecting our basic right to privacy when we travel in cyberspace.” A Do Not Track mechanism would give consumers better control of their information and help restore their confidence in the Internet. That’s a win-win for consumers and business.

Read the original article on The Huffington Post.

raisinghell Jamie Court is the author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell.

Will the President Gridlock West LA as Prelude to Earth Day? He Should Read the Gas Station Signs

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

The email warnings are flying in West Los Angeles about how the President’s motorcade will once again gridlock afternoon rush hour. The cause: two mistimed, ill-placed Hollywood fundraisers on opposite sides of the traffic jam known as West LA.

There’s probably no major city as pro-Obama as Los Angeles, or state so solidly in his camp as California. Still there’s nothing to get you to examine your feelings about your president as sitting for hours to drive a few miles in the mass-transit-free zone of West LA, because the president chose not to take a helicopter.

Manhattan may be an island but it’s got trains and subways. There’s no subway, light rail or train to get you where you need to go in West LA. There’s only your car to get your kids from school, get home from work, or get to your evening places and people.

Isn’t there a better Obama image for Earth Day on Friday than the president grid-locking car land just to pick up some campaign cash from a few Hollywood moguls at two separate locations? With LA gas prices hovering around $4.20 per gallon, Potus is going to cost average people a lot more at the pump than he will raise.

Couldn’t Hollywood just hold one meeting, not two, in honor of Earth Day? How about at an airport hotel, so no one has to drive the president very far?

Hollywood should have better sense, but the image makers seem oblivious to their own.

We want you to be safe Mr. President, but won’t a helicopter do? What better way to see the earth for Earth Day?

The West LA spectacle is a reminder that Obama needs to get in touch with real people in real ways, particularly his natural base, if he wants to keep his job in 2012. No amount of money from Hollywood or anywhere else can overcome the impression that the president is out of touch with his people.

What progressives like me tend to think about when sitting in Westside traffic is why the president won’t get tough and mean on the industries that are the bane of our existence and his, like Big Oil.

A movie that just hit the DVD shelf, Gas Hole, brilliantly lays out the case for how oil companies have put us over a barrel by shorting the gasoline supply, buying up patents on fuel efficient technology and lying to the public at every turn. The president might have chosen to stop at a public screening of Gas Hole for Earth Day rather than hole up in a movie studio and Brentwood bar privately with moviemaker donors.

Everyone in those rooms know what the public knows: oil companies are killing the earth and our wallets. It’s a confluence of tremendous public energy that the President has yet to make use of.

Congress may not be cooperating but it doesn’t mean Obama cannot make his case that big oil companies are getting rich off our pain and it’s got to stop. He recently took a swipe a oil speculators, which makes good policy, but Obama has yet to connect with the public over their pain at the pump, and connect that pain to the Earth’s pain.

Potus may know the end game is the gridlock in Washington DC on energy policy. But he can change the balance of power in that game, and remind his base why we need him when the Koch Brothers and Exxon are the ones fundraising for the GOP, if he starts to pump his own gasoline and worry about how much we all pay.

The oil companies are worse than Enron, as Gas Hole proves. They are killing the economy, earth and our wallets by artificially shorting the market to drive up gasoline prices. It’s time the president started treating these predators the way they should be treated by a populist president. The bully pulpit of the White House is no small problem for a hated corporation, and the president needs to use it to better effect. The chief executive has the tools of investigation, as well as enforcement, and he can crystallize exactly why we pay too much per gallon and what needs to be done about. How about a task force at least?

There’s a simple solution: regulation of the gasoline supply. Oil companies need to be watched more closely by the government and told how to make supplies adequate to meet demand. Clean energy will need the same controls if it is to be cheap too.

Obama needs a gas prices platform to crystallize that he stands for cleaner energy and cheaper energy. Oil isn’t cheap, as any Californian paying $4. 20 per gallon can tell you. The alternatives are a lot cheaper, as Gas Hole proves. Obama needs to take a moment on his Los Angeles trip to watch the gridlock around him, read the prices at the gas stations and consider how the anger at the oil companies that are feeding at our wallets and on the earth could help him help us all.

Read the original article on The Huffington Post.

raisinghell Jamie Court is the author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell.

Google CEO for Commerce Secretary? How About Madoff for SEC?

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

The strong buzz in Washington, DC is that Google CEO Eric Schmidt is President Obama’s top choice for Commerce Secretary and an appointment is coming soon. The CEO who made billions collecting our personal information online and serving us up to advertisers, the guy who created online privacy problems, would head the federal agency responsible for developing and executing the Administration’s online privacy policies. How about just appointing Bernie Madoff to head the SEC?

Part of me wants to see Schmidt nominated because he would finally have to testify before Congress. Here’s a guy who presided over the largest wiretapping scandal in American history, when Google Street View cars took data presumably from tens of millions of wi-fi networks across the world, and he has not even had to testify before Congress. Now that’s a guy who is wired. Connected all the way to the Oval Office apparently. (Consumer Watchdog made a very funny video about what Schmidt’s faux testimony would look like.)

Apparently no one in the West Wing has been able to talk practically with the President, who really wants Schmidt. It’s hard to imagine how a guy who owns roughly $5.41 billion worth of Google stock could avoid a conflict of interest. There’s only one way: Schmidt will have to sell all his stock, and his part ownership of the company. You cannot place that much wealth in a blind trust when everyone knows where the wealth springs from. That’s a seeing-eye trust. The very type that exploded the career of one time Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Then there’s Schmidt’s crazy mistress/girlfriend, stuff that’s too rich for the GOP family values crowd in the Senate not to come after on the character/family values issue. Since this is business, not personal, I’ll let the online tabloids talk:

Eric Schmidt’s ex-girlfriend sets her sights on Facebook


Google’s CEO Demanded His Mistress Take Down Her Blog

Is Google CEO¹s Other Girlfriend Getting Indiscreet, Too?


Google CEO Deters Mistress Tattle Tales

Getting Cozy with Google CEO’s Mistress And His Money

The Google CEO and His Mistress: The Tell-All Blog

How Google CEO’s Ex Girlfriend Keeps Tabs on Him

Google CEO Has Money for ‘Dear Friend’ of His Sometime Girlfriend

There are strong policy reasons not to make America’s policy on commerce Google’s brand of business. Consumer Watchdog enumerated them in a letter to President Obama weeks ago, but we have not received a letter back, not even a G-mail.

In a nut shell, Google’s brand of business is to ignore ethical mores, social customs, and the rule of law — as a federal judge ruled last week to uphold copyright laws against Google’s digital assault on them in its Digi-Book-Mart deal. The judge sided with Consumer Watchdog and other consumer groups when claiming the deal would give Google a “de facto monopoly.”

Obama has shown some remarkably bad judgment at pivotal moments of his presidency. Right before the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama agreed to include offshore drilling in his energy bill. Just after the tsunami struck Japan, his Administration reiterated its support for nuclear energy. Now, on the verge of an online privacy revolution, Obama is about to appoint a CEO who is The Anti-Privacy to his chief privacy post. 90% of the public wants more online privacy. Hmmm, do you think Americans will be happy with Mr. Schmidt and the President in the end?

Part of me is looking forward to this nomination since, deal or no deal with Senate leaders on the confirmation, Schmidt will be a big, bright pinyata for privacy advocates when he gets to take the oath at the confirmation hearings. I’m betting there are some senators who will ask the tough questions, and finally we’ll get some answers about Google’s scandals.

Google stock might even suffer the consequences. This could be one confirmation hearing where Mr. Schmidt, whose known for his verbal gaffes, could cost himself hundreds of millions of dollars with the wrong word choice. (Remember, “Google’s policy is get right up to the Creepy Line?”) If Google’s stock falls $50 or so from its $575 heights based on those hearings, Schmidt’s wealth, based on 9,372,741 shares of stock, goes down by about about a half billion dollars. Now that’s one expensive confirmation process!

Read the original article on The Huffington Post.

raisinghell Jamie Court is the author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell.

Breaking News: We Stopped Google In Court

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

It’s not every day that you beat one of America’s biggest companies in court. Today a federal judge agreed with Consumer Watchdog’s strong anti-trust arguments and prevented Google from gaining a monopoly over digitized online books.

Consumer Watchdog was of the one first to call for the US Justice Department to block the Google Books deal where Google scanned most of the books in the world without asking for permission from the authors. We agree with Judge Denny Chin’s ruling that a digital books library should be available only with the consent of all authors. Judge Chin ruled that the agreement “would grant Google significant rights to exploit entire books, without the permission of copyright owners.”

We took this stand because we believe Google’s engineers are out of control. They take first and ask permission later.  Today Judge Chin acknowledged that the deal would give Google a “defacto monopoly” and would arguably give Google control over the search market.

One company should not have control over the body of world literature. Today’s victory hopefully is the beginning of more scrutiny over Google’s business practices and use of its monopolistic position online.

I wanted share this important news with you as it happened. If you want to read Judge Chin’s ruling, you can read it here.

Thanks for all you support.

Editor’s Note: This piece appeared originally in an email alert from Jamie Court at Consumer Watchdog.

Learn more at ConsumerWatchdog.org.

raisinghell Jamie Court is the author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell.

Will Google Maps New Street View Tricycles Take Pictures of Our Kids’ Playground?

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Should our right to privacy be sacrificed so Google can make billions of dollars off images of us and our things? Google’s grand experiment in photographing the world’s places for Google Maps has taken its “street view” cameras off-road with new hi-tech tricycles equipped with 360 degree view cameras to photograph the back roads, parks, college paths and inner sanctums of our world. The engineer’s latest design raises the question: What will Google be capturing on its backroad tour that people don’t want seen?

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The images are up on Google Maps today and we’ll no doubt soon see how the engineers at Google have opened people’s private lives up to scrutiny they did not invite. All so Google can have better images to sell their advertisers’ products around the world.

Will Google be adequately blurring the faces of people out of their online photographs?  Go look at this tricycle shot of Legoland and see what you think.  Bet those families that day didn’t realize they were being photographed to boost Google’s bottom line. Did these families have a reasonable expectation that their family photo wouldn’t be open to millions of eyes, and used to sell Google advertising services?

Will it be outing college students who don’t want their parents to know what’s in their dorm window, people who don’t want their employers or clients to know what flags they fly or signs they hang on their rural roads, people who built extensions on their home, but didn’t tell the city permitting office? There’s no blurring the identity of people driving certain cars on certain roads near their homes.

I don’t want my kids photographed in a playground, or on a class trip to a park or historical site as Google’s tricycles are rolling through. Google claims it will blur faces, but we’ll just have to see how much it values privacy over its desire to put images of everywhere and everything online for everyone to see, just so that advertisers will pay a bigger price to advertise on those pages.

This is creepy stuff. Let’s hope this is one time the privacy cops at Google were giving clear direction to the engineers. My bet is we’ll be hearing the fallout soon.

More importantly, Google isn’t publishing a newspaper, where photos of people in public places are allowed.  Google is taking pictures to make more money from it’s contextual advertising. Google makes its money one way — advertising.  Our right to privacy shouldn’t be usurped by Google so it can make billions of dollars off images of us and our things.

Read the original article on The Huffington Post.

raisinghell Jamie Court is the author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell.

Obama Puts Single Payer and Public Option Back on the Table

Monday, February 28th, 2011

At the National Governors Association, President Obama just threw his weight behind a bipartisan effort in the U.S. Senate to allow states to innovate with health reform, including adopting a public insurance system or single payer health care system by 2013 instead of 2017.

The governors embraced the state innovations waiver proposal, since conservative states want to weed back the federal health reform, and states like California might like to push ahead with public insurance options or single payer health care systems.

The idea is to let states meet federal targets anyway they want to, rather than how the federal government prescribes, by 2013 rather than the current 2017 deadline.

This is one of Obama’s only moves left, and a smart one. It gives progressive reformers in California and elsewhere the ability to move forward on ambitious reform plans that can pass at the ballot box in 24 states but would never get the time of day in Washington.

Facing strong legal challenges to the individual mandate, Obama did the right thing by offering flexibility to states to meet targets for access and benefits in the Affordable Care Act.  He took a page from longtime labor leader Joe Hill: “Don’t Mourn, Organize.” He’s giving those of us who favor a public insurance option to the private insurance market an opportunity to move our states forward. We better take Joe Hill’s advice too and start organizing.

In my book, The Progressive’s Guide To Raising Hell, I point out how the initiative process in 24 states and the District of Columbia are the best hope to get the type of health insurance reform that Obama promised in 2008.  Today’s announcement, if Republicans in Congress bite, lets us act on ambitious reform via ballot measure before 2014, the date mandatory insurance is set to take effect.  Game on.

Read the original article on The Huffington Post.

raisinghell Jamie Court is the author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell.

Our Revolution

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

The largely peaceful revolution in Cairo and Americans’ celebration of it raises the question:

What would it take to mount a peaceful revolution in America against the Wall Street and corporate powerhouses that have turned the government against the best interests of our people?”

In America, the corporation is king and the abuses of corporate power are the subject of our people’s greatest grievances.

The 2008 election was supposed to settle the score with Wall Street and the corporate elite that have ransomed, ransacked and run over the average American. The change never came, and it’s even less likely in 2012.

At Consumer Watchdog we build populist revolutions one spark at a time where the public has spoken but the rich and powerful won’t listen. While our work cannot compare to the heroism of the Egyptian people, we are inspired by their example.

The revolution in Cairo showed the power of online platforms like Twitter and Facebook to authentically air outrage and connect change makers. In Washington, DC, Consumer Watchdog is fighting to protect individuals’ freedom online, which is being threatened in the name of greater profit, by some of the very corporate innovators that created these platforms.

On Friday, the “Do Not Track Me Online” revolution began with the introduction of legislation by Congressional Rep. Jackie Speier (HR 654) to force corporations to respect our right to keep personal information and online habits private. You can weigh in with your Congressional Representative to pass the legislation here.

Our freedom to be revolutionaries in America depends on how well we can maintain the online commons as free, open, and in the service of the individual, and our privacy needs, rather than the corporation and its commercial needs. This is an American battlefield that begins with online privacy, the right not to tracked online, extends to net neutrality and evolves to the greater notion that online technology should be in the service of individuals not corporate robots (in spirit of the teaching of Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not A Gadget.

If there is a nonpartisan street revolt brewing in America today it is against the staggering health insurance premium increases that insurance companies are foisting on Americans. I was in the streets against Blue Shield’s 59% rate hike two weeks ago with angry patients and the California Nurses Association. Blue Shield actually agreed to delay the hike when we showed up.

Consistent premium hikes and the pending mandatory health insurance law to take effect in 2014 are bound to continue a growing rebellion.

Health insurance companies like Blue Shield and Anthem Blue Cross thumb their noses at our democracy daily. They hijacked health reform to give themselves a guaranteed market, even as they fight daily to erode the consumer protections in the new federal law. Consumer Watchdog is working with regulators to force the health insurance companies to live by the new rules and with California legislators for “Do Not Gouge Me” legislation — giving government the right to stop unnecessary premium hikes. (You can weigh in for AB 52, if you have not already, here. )

Ultimately, the 24 states with ballot initiative processes will be a vehicle to get the people what Congress will not deliver - a public insurance alternative to the private market. Consumer Watchdog is already drafting such a ballot measure for California.

What happens after a revolt is as important as the uprising itself. Insurance companies like Mercury Insurance, Allstate and Farmers have been fighting for two decades against the ballot box revolution of insurance reform Proposition 103. Consumer Watchdog’s lawyers fight back daily to protect and further that voter revolt, which has saved motorists $62 billion on their auto insurance, and to show that even the biggest and most powerful companies have to respect the people’s will.

Revolutions in America today take place in the corporate suites, not the streets. CEOs are generally the ones deposed, not presidents, which is the first clue to who really holds the power in our nation… But if a governmental revolution were to come, how would it unfold?

Bob Herbert in his New York Times column Saturday artfully makes the case of the price we have paid for the sins of Wall Street and self-serving interest of those at the very top of the economy. America will never be the same, nor will our schools, parks, colleges, social programs and deficit, without a major re-rewrite of how our government works to divorce it from the state of corporate capture that is its numbing existence.

Elections are not tools of revolutions in America anymore. What will it take to get Americans in the streets?

Higher prices for everything coming with growing inflation, higher unemployment, no jobs for our youth, the closing down of public services and public assistance?

The powerful in America have too much to lose and usually buckle when they smell the whiff of a revolution. That’s why it’s worth putting that smell in the air and in the streets again when the moment calls for it.

Dramatic changes in ideas and practices are the results of long, hard marches toward freedom and accountability. We need to start marching together in America again.

Read the original article on The Huffington Post.

raisinghell Jamie Court is the author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell.

Will Black Sheep Blue Shield Bring Down American Health Insurance?

Monday, January 31st, 2011

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones may have just assured Blue Shield its place as the worst health insurance company in America. He's gotten every other health insurance company in California to hold off on rate increases.

A black sheep among black sheep is how Blue Shield and its CEO Bruce Bodaken will be remembered if they don't budge from their pledge to raise rates as much as 59 percent on some Californians on March 1. The drama playing out in California is being watched on the national stage. With consumers ready to turn their pitchforks on Blue Shield, the recalcitrant insurer could become the unwitting hero of a movement to further regulation and restore the public option to the private market in California and states across America.

When Anthem Blue Cross tried to raise rates as much as 39 percent on Californians last year, the outrage gave President Obama the ammunition to pass federal health reform, even though the bill did nothing to stop rate increases.  Now Blue Shield is giving California reformers the ammo to go to the legislature and the ballot box for proposals that give regulators the power to say no to premium increases and to create a public insurance option in California. What starts here will spread.
Only Blue Shield could make Anthem Blue Cross look like a patriot.

Here's what Insurance Commissioner Jones had to say:

I am pleased that Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross and PacifiCare have agreed to my request that they halt the implementation of their rate increases until the Department of Insurance has adequate time to review their recent rate filings. I am very concerned about the impact premium increases will have on policyholders, so I want to ensure that the Department has adequate time to review these rate filings for compliance with the law. Blue Shield policyholders will not have the benefit of this additional review period to ensure compliance with the law, but I will do what is within my power to determine whether Blue Shield’s proposed rates are in compliance with the law and to enforce that law.

The question for Blue Shield is what does it have to hide? Apparently a lot. 
That's why Consumer Watchdog called last week for disclosure about how much Blue Shield CEO Bruce Bodaken makes, why Blue Shield is keeping 12 times the required amount of surplus, and supporting evidence for its claims that medical costs are going through the roof. Every other health insurance company discloses its CEO's salary. Apparently Blue Shield is a strong believer in its exceptionalism.

Where there is smoke there is usually fire. Blue Shield is becoming the poster child for everything we hate about health insurance companies.  It better rethink it's positions and give its customers a break or it may find that its arrogance will be its downfall.

If you are angry, you can join me, betrayed Blue Shield patients and the California Nurses Association leaders at Blue Shield headquarters in San Fransisco next Tuesday for a good old fashioned pitchfork protest.

Tuesday, Feb. 1, 11:00 a.m.
WHERE: Blue Shield San Francisco HQ, 50 Beale St.
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Read the original post on
The Huffington Post.

raisinghell Jamie Court is the author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell.