Residents turn out for BCBSND forumMore than 50 community members were on hand when officials from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota stopped in Jamestown on Thursday night.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
More than 50 community members were on hand when officials from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota stopped in Jamestown on Thursday night.
“The point of this evening is to have a conversation,” said Paul von Ebers, BCBSND president and CEO. “We didn’t bring any prepared materials or presentation because we want to hear from you what your questions and comments are.”
BCBSND recently mailed out a survey to its members. Close to 8,000 surveys have been returned. It is also holding meetings like the one in Jamestown across the state.
Questions came from the audience at Gladstone Inn & Suites and also from people viewing online.
Nancy Lies asked von Ebers why there is no limit to co-pays.
“I’ve asked for those co-pays to be exempt and I’ve been turned down,” Lie said. “At what point have I paid enough?”
Lies paid $10,500 out of her pocket in the past year and is in a situation now where her husband won’t get the care recommended by a physician.
The president and CEO replied that Americans usually only pay about 15 to 20 percent of their health care costs, and that is bankrupting some people.
“These stories are heartbreaking and how do we handle that and get premiums that people can pay?” von Ebers said.
He said BCBSND is working to provide better doctors and care by eliminating “hamster medicine.”
He wants to pay primary care providers more to not see so many patients and spend their time coordinating the care of their patients. This would result in better care for lower costs, von Ebers said.
“If there is a magic bullet for these problems, this is the magic bullet,” he said.
Aside from providing better health care people at the event wanted to know how to limit their costs.
He offered some simple advice: stop smoking, exercise and use generic medications when possible.
Two-thirds of the drugs BCBSND pays for are generics, If they can increase that by 10 percent they could save 3 percent on premiums, von Ebers said.
Others at the event questioned family and single health insurance plans and why there is no reduction in costs for those who don’t use health services as often.
Von Ebers said that dating back to when BCBSND formed 70 years ago everyone was charged one rate and money was divvied out based on who was sick.
But most people are healthy at any given time and most people will only suffer one bad medical event, or have one bad year, he said.
“People are frustrated that they pay high premiums and they don’t get anything out of it,” he said.
There was also some discussion about what would happen if President Barack Obama’s health care reform becomes law.
At BCBSND, von Ebers said they already treat it as the law of the land. One area he was optimistic about was the mandate requiring an online marketplace for health insurance shopping.
“We don’t really care who builds it,” von Ebers said. “What we do care about is decisions that affect North Dakota health care should be made in North Dakota.”
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by e-mail at email@example.com