Nurse Protest Prompts Blue Shield to Delay Rate Hike


By Rose Ann DeMoro, Executive Director of National Nurses United

People power works, and not just in Egypt.

Blue Shield of California today announced a 60-day reprieve for the unconscionable rate hike of up to 59 percent it intends to foist on individuals and families.

The announcement coincided with announced plans by nurses, patients, and consumer advocates who stormed Blue Shield’s posh California corporate headquarters in downtown San Francisco.

Coincidence? That’s what Blue Shield insisted, even though they scurried to get out their press release the same morning they were surrounding their doors with barricades, chains, and security guards to protect their property from families facing bankruptcy with outrageous rate hikes and nurses who care for the collateral damage from insurance abuses.

No, it wasn’t hard to connect the dots here between nurses and patients turning up the heat on Blue Shield’s barricaded doorstep the same day it agreed to an all too brief reprieve in its egregious rate increase.

But Blue Shield’s announcement won’t stop protests against Blue Shield or other insurance corporations.

We can learn a lesson from the streets of Egypt and other Arab countries.

Public pressure is essential to confront tyranny, whether you are faced with political repression or corporate control of our health.

There are lives in the balance. We can’t count on legislators, regulators, courts or the lobbyists. We have to rely on the mobilization of people to stop these insurance abuses and step up the call for genuine reform, expanding Medicare to cover everyone.

Our 200 protesters cited Blue Shield’s plan to jack up premiums, and new data documenting that California insurers deny more than one-fourth of all claims. We also heard from patients who told of the devastating effect of Blue Shield’s actions.

As California Nurses Association/National Nurses United Co-President told the rally, “We are here because this is the scene of corporate crime. The bean counters upstairs don’t sit at the bedside and hold the hands of our patients.”

“A 60-day delay is a small victory, but it won’t alleviate the pain experienced by patients every day who must endure callous price increases and care denials by an industry that cares more about its bottom line than the patients it purports to serve,” said McEwen.

Here’s what two of the patients noted:

“Our insurance is completely not worth the price. We pay almost half what we pay for rent.” said Kerry Abukhalaf who brought her son to the rally. “Its just a big rip-off. We may just throw our chances to the wind and find insurance for our son and pay out of pocket for my husband and myself.”

“I’m angry. I find it really unfair that I’m forced to pay an unlimited amount to a private company. Basically, you have to pay the insurance or go away and die. Something has to change,” said Patrick Killelea, contract programmer living in Menlo Park whose rates have increased 73% in past year.
People always ask me, ‘Why are the nurses doing this?’ My response? The nurses are doing this because they are at ground zero. They see the fall out.

One example is the almost surreal rate of claims that the big insurers reject. We presented new data, which the insurers themselves report to the state Department of Managed Care, documenting that insurers denied 26 percent of all claims last year. Since 2002, these seven firms, which account for more than three-fourths of all insurance enrollees in California, have rejected 67.5 million claims.

Others joining the protest were representatives of Consumer Watchdog, the Courage Campaign, Healthcare Now, Physicians for a National Health Program, and the San Francisco Labor Council, along with other seniors, community, and healthcare activists.


  1. bondwooley on February 3, 2011 at 11:40 am

    While the spokes of government decide whether or not Americans should be entitled to health care, we’re going to have to look for ways to stretch our health care dollars. Hopefully, it doesn’t come down to this:

  2. seoduff on February 4, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    I cannot believe that you guys have to pay for healthcare insurance in states. Here in seo hampshire uk we are so lucky!.

    • Sam Meyers on February 10, 2011 at 12:45 pm

      Yes you are Seoduff.
      I am a Brit living in the states and every single year my health insurance rates go up, way above the level of inflation. The coverage is rubbish and the service you receive no better than anything I had in England; sometimes worse. Its a disgrace and the government over here refuse to make the health insurance comapanies accountable. I am totally fed up with it.

      • duffy on March 5, 2011 at 6:15 pm

        The problem is that we cannot support everyone. Even more important is that our planet cannot cope with this prolonged life, extended life expectancy and exponential growth in population….americans are to blame for alot…. america needs to change its way and also realise that they have it easy

  3. Katherine Mudd on February 10, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    So inspirational! Why can’t we do this in Illinois? Our Blue Cross Blue Shield went up over 30% this year. Over 20% last year.

  4. Diane on February 10, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    My Blue Cross coverage went up by $35.00 per month this year, deducted from my small pension, with no concomitant COLA. If this keeps happening, I plan to forgo the insurance completely.

  5. Hal Goldfarb on February 11, 2011 at 2:59 am

  6. Archie1954 on February 12, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    If the bulk of Americans can get out of their ideological straightjackets long enough to think clearly, they would demand exactly what every other first world people have, and that is single payer healthcare. End of story!

  7. TBake on February 13, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    And who exactly is supposed to pay for your healthcare when it is free? The taxpayers? What is with the entitlement attitude in this country now? Everyone wants something for nothing. Your government is destroying our healthcare. Good doctors are planning an early retirement if government healthcare comes to fruition which means longer wait times for sub par care. Instead of complaining, get an education which will enable you to pay for your own flipping healthcare for crying out loud.

  8. Annie Kelleher on February 16, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    I believe that sound minds prevail in these comments although there appears to be some misunderstandings. Citizens understand that Single Payer will not be free — that it will be paid for via a payroll tax. And health care is not about entitlement. I do not think this is implied by any comments here. Health care is a human right. Health care should not be managed by profit-based corporations with no transparency and it should never be based on whether or not someone is employed. For example, even highly paid, highly educated, highly skilled consultants are basically free-lance and they too are subject to tragedy and pain, just as all of us, if they need health care in our current system. Our profit-based, no-value-add Wall Street health care finance monopoly has no place in our economy. It’s a Cost based industry financed by forcible tactics imposed on citizens. BC/BS does not provide anything. So, it’s really about a better system. We have the means, and the capital base to provide excellent care, but our fractured and polluted system is in the way. We can do better, I should think.