Friday, June 17, 2005

Michigan Politicians Covet Large Blue Cross Surpluses

The Detroit News reported that the Chairwoman of the State Senate Appropriations Committee is calling on Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to voluntarily contribute some of its large and growing surplus to help state health care programs, or face loss of its tax exemption.
Michigan Blue Cross now has a surplus of $2.24 billion. According to the News, that is 800 percent of the mandated minimum amount.
The article noted that in Pennsylvania, after state politicians noted large surpluses being piled up by in state Blue Cross insurers, the Governor reached an agreement with the plans that they would contribute some of their reserves to state health programs.
Michigan Blue Cross spokeswoman Helen Stojic countered, "we spend tens of millions of dollars already reinvesting in communities."
On the other hand, Tom Clay of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, noted, "you could make the argument that if the Blues are building up a reserve, they're probably charging more for insurance than they need to."
In my humble opinion, leaders of both not-for-profit insurers like some Blue Cross plans, and not-for-profit hospitals and academic medical centers need to refocus on their missions, or risk rude encounters with politicians who can find other uses for the money these institutions have been accumulating.

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