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Another Voice: While health insurers spend, costs to the public rise

By Donna Evans-Deyermond

This week I received a letter from the CEO of my health insurer stating, “As CEO, I have pledged to touch base with you annually.”

I don’t remember that pledge, and if I had had a chance to respond at the time, I would have asked for something much different.

I don’t need a letter. I have email. Nor do I need the expensive folder sent to explain the insurer’s plans, or the directory. I can get it all online.

I looked up what it costs health care companies to pay for marketing. According to statistics.com, if revenues are more than $500 million a year, they each spend about $24.1 million. Out of that, 10.3 percent goes to those sales materials and 6.8 percent to direct marketing.

I don’t need the billboards, TV commercials, or print or radio ads insurers spend another 7.4 percent on. In fact, they could cut that budget significantly and just send me the basics of the plans – by email.

I see in The Buffalo News that health insurance CEOs earn more than $1 million a year. That tells me there are a number of executives in each company earning upward of $500,000. Can’t those people get along on less?

I was talking to a friend who is a customer service representative at one of my insurer’s competitors. She told me she met with a woman who pays $5,000 a month for her medications. Now, that woman needs a lot of money coming in. But even she doesn’t need upward of $1 million.

How about putting some pressure on pharmaceutical companies to bring the cost of drugs down? Again, according to statistics.com, companies like that spend 13.3 percent of their marketing budgets paying sales representatives and 13.7 percent of it on meetings and conferences. We’ve all been to conferences, right?

While all of this is going on, I have a young relative who would have to pay more than $200 a month out of (what to insurers would be) his paltry $45,000 a year, for a health care plan with a $6,000 deductible.

I’m sorry, but that is not a plan. It’s a rip-off. He’s still young and fairly healthy, so there’s little chance he’s going to use $6,000 in services – and if he did get sick – where’s that $6,000 going to come from?

I saw in the paper recently that some premiums for the Affordable Care Act are rising 25 percent next year. As long as insurers spend millions on marketing and exorbitant salaries, there will be no “affordable health care.”

Looks to me like we should go to a one-payer system, eliminate marketing and high administration costs, and get drug prices down so people can actually afford health care.

Donna Evans-Deyermond is a public relations consultant who has written extensively about health care.

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