On January 25, former Anthem nurse and member of the Virginia Organizing Health Care Committee testified in front of the special Senate Health Insurance Subcommitte. He spoke out on the need for a consumer-friendly, quasi-governmental Exchange. Here's what he said:
My name is Ray Scher. I am speaking before you today as former Anthem managed care nurse and a member of the Virginia Organizing Health Care Committee.
Over the last year I have attended several of the Virginia Health Reform Initiative meetings and have been encouraged by the progress of the panel, especially by the 11-3 vote in favor of a quasi-governmental Exchange housed outside of the SCC.
The Virginia Health Reform Initiative recognized the need to ensure healthy competition in our health insurance market. And as a nurse who worked for Anthem for 17 years, I could not agree more. I was with Anthem when they were still Blue Cross of Virginia, before they demutualized. Over the next seven years following the demutualization as Blue Cross morphed into Trigon, then Anthem and now WellPoint/Anthem, the Blues became the largest for-profit insurer in the state and the U.S. Despite promises that demutualization would lower rates, most of your constituents have likely had their Anthem insurance rates double over the last ten years.
As a nurse I saw health care delivery change immediately in Virginia and feel that the overall health of my patients was ill served by this model. I saw more and more claim denials, shorter-than necessary hospitalizations and more patients who dropped their insurance altogether because they could not afford it.
The problem is that since Anthem became what it is today, no other insurer provides strong competition in the state of Virginia. It isn’t surprising that many other insurers have expressed their support for a quasi-governmental Exchange housed outside of the SCC. They understand that Virginia does not currently provide a level playing field.
I urge the committee to consider Exchange legislation that is:
- not housed in the SCC,
- and that is governed by legislators, consumers and providers—not insurers.
Certain insurers in the state may not think that competition is in their best interests, but when they are forced to compete, quality goes up and prices go down. As a result health care consumers get better care and nurses like myself can better fulfill the Nightingale pledge to, “devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care.”