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March 04, 2010

POTUS drops in on insurance execs with a letter to shame them

President Obama walked in today on a closed-door meeting between Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and top insurance industry executives, and read the executives a letter from an Ohio woman whose case he thought demonstrated why the industry needs more regulation in the form of a comprehensive bill.

The letter Gibbs described from Natoma Canfield, 50, talked about how she'd been cancer-free for 11 years but nonetheless had last year paid $6,075 in premiums and about $4,000 more for medical care, co-pays and prescriptions, and her insurance had paid out only about $935. Then she was informed her 2010 premiums would go up 40%.

Sebelius is asking insurers to provide actuarial data justifying large rate increases.

Expect to hear the president to talk a lot more about that letter in the coming weeks as he travels the country to whip up support for Democrats to pass a health care overhaul on a bare-majority vote.

Here's the text:

Dear President Obama:

I am 50 years old. I was diagnosed with carcinoma in-situ 16 years ago and following my divorce 12 years ago I became self-employed. After my Cobra ran out I was able to find costly, but affordable health insurance. As a responsible individual, I have struggled to maintain my individual coverage and have increased my deductible and out of pocket-limits in an attempt to control my cost and keep my health insurance.

Last year (2009) my insurance premium was increased over 25% even though I increased my deductible and out of pocket to the highest limits available. I paid out over $6075.24 in premiums, $2415.26 for medical care, $225 in co-pays and $1500 for prescriptions. I never reached my deductible of $2500 so the insurance company only paid out a total $935.32 to my providers.

I must repeat, in 2009 my insurance company received $6075.24 in premiums and paid out only $935.32!

I have just been notified that my premium for next year 2010 has been increased over 40% to $8496.24 ($708.02 per month) !!!! This is the same insurance company I have been with for over 11 cancer free years!!!

I need your Health reform bill to help me!!! I simply can no longer afford to pay for my health care costs!!

Thanks to this incredible premium increase demanded by my insurance company, January will be my last month of insurance.

I live in the house my mother & father built in 1958 and I am so afraid of the possibility I might loose this heirloom as a result of my being forced to drop my health care insurance. The health insurance industry has not denied me insurance directly, but indirectly they have by increasing my costs. They perceive me as becoming a higher risk factor to them despite being a loyal customer. I will never be able to obtain new health insurance due to the lack of real competition.

We are talking about Anthem who apparently has no respect for your attempts to reform the health insurance industry.

Please stay focused in your reform attempts as I and many others are in desperate need of your help.


Natoma Canfield


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My bosses daughter is in college and just turned 24 so she dropped off the companies coverage. She tried to get insurance on her own, her only problem is atiney spot of eczema on her neck and one bad pap smear 2 years ago. No one would cover her because she had a "preexisting condition" and she ended up on her Dad's Cobra plan paying $600 a month. My daughter has a disability and I am in fear of what happens when SHE finishes school. By the way, it's cheaper for me to send her to community college than pay monthly insurance. Unless she agrees to be classified as disabled she is uninsurable, even though it's not life threatening, and she's only 20. I am doing what I can to give her every opportunity to be successful in her own right, but I worry that the cards are stacked against her due to the cost of medical. That guy Eric obviously hasn't been seriously challenged financially or physically, and was probably born with a silver spoon. Those are the only people I know who are that callous, kind of like the civilians calling for a war they don't plan to fight in. Let's hope there really is a higher power because I don't want to believe that all this struggle is for nothing but the gain of soul less politicians, lawmakers and corporate hogs.


Insurance companies have to pay commissions to agents, they have to have underwriters and territorial sales staff with all of the printed materials. They have to make money for stockholders, and pay CEO's obscene amounts of money because, of course, the revenues are so much that you HAVE to pay the CEO some several millions of dollars (it takes @ 5,000 paying customers just to pay for the CEO)...the money is good all the way around....and NONE OF IT....pays a doctor or a nurse or a pharmacist.


She should drop her insurance company. If she's paying over $6000 in insurance costs even with her company paying $900 she'd still be paying less on her own. $2500 + $1500 + $900 + $225 = $5125+
She'll just have to live by the Republican health care plan- don't get sick and if you do--die quickly. It's funny how one guy said it was her fault for signing the contract. When that companies your only option and you need insurance then you have to sign it. Some people are so selfish. I've got great insurance I pay half but I'm young healthy and my insurance is $400/month for one person. Boy are they making $ off me. I'd say they paid maybe $60 last year or less but my rates still went up over 30%. I want to get rid of my insurance but you always have the what ifs? Greedy greedy selfish people! I guess it's her fault that she got cancer. She deserves to pay that much and possibly lose her house. I mean it's only someones life here. Money is way more important. So how's that money gonna look when you die and can't take it with you? People don't realize it's someones brother, mother, sister dying. This is life and death here. Someones family member is dying right now while we sit here and do nothing! I just don't see how more people are not outraged! Wake up and see the greed!!!!!!!!!!

dread locks

I was working at one place as a software engineer designing iPhone accessories.

I was on the family medical plan at work, I had a wife and two kids at the time.

Then one day I was called into HR office and told my health premium was going to almost double right then and there. It became so high that I was almost working just to pay the health insurance. I had to quit the job I really liked and take a job I hated that paid more, just because I couldnt afford the health insurance. None of my family members ever got sick or anything.


If Obama really wanted to help citizens out with their health and drug care he would have wanted and put a public option in the health bill and had it put in effect over 6 months ago.

Obama is using this poor woman affair to sell his corporate health and drug bill..

Obama lies...

Obama says now he did not promise a public option..


Wednesday, September 24, 2008.....Obama's speech from Dunedin, Florida


Stud Monkey

This man who calls himself "president" is an absolute "SHAM".

He will be the ruin of this country and is simply trying to strong arm and embarass people into blindly following him !!

Remember: "If you think healthcare is expensive now, just wait until its "free"....


I'd rather die of cancer than be subject to this torturous life and oppressive system (government, banks, insurance company)



I should feel sorry for you, but the selfishness, hate and archaic 19th century Manifest Destiny attitude will forever prevent that. You are a true scum bag. However I feel better that you will die some day, and if heaven and hell exist, you will spend eternity in those flames of hate. Please DIAF as soon as possible, so that your can be taken from humanity's gene pool forever.


It is a statistical certainty that within
the next 50 years, 1 in 3 of the people YOU know will develop some
form of cancer. Anyone one of us can be in that woman's situation or much much worst. Wake up American! We've been pretty smart about how to handle these situations (historically). We can still be dems or repubs. We just can't afford to be stupid!!!

Jim S

Dear President Obama:

I am 50 years old. I was diagnosed with carcinoma in-situ 16 years ago and following my divorce 12 years ago I became self-employed. After my Cobra ran out I was able to find costly, but affordable health insurance. As a responsible individual, I have struggled to maintain my individual coverage and have increased my deductible and out of pocket-limits in an attempt to control my cost and keep my health insurance.

You are writing the wrong person. You should send this to all the Republicans who are trying to kill this bill so they can keep getting funds from the Health Insurance Companies and Pharma companies.

Jim S

You can't shame someone who has no conscience or shame!


"Pay for your own way! Lazy, pathetic, dependant liberals. It is no one's fault but your own if you are too feeble to read contracts before you sign them, take out loans you can't afford, drown in student loans after choosing college majors that don't lead to well paying careers. You deserve poverty not hand-outs. As you heathens love to promote the concept of darwinisim... this is darwinism at its finest!"

I don't even know how to react to a comment like that. I would just ignore it except for the fact that I recently heard Rick Santenelli saying something very similar on T.V., that people who sign a contract only have themselves to blame. According to Santenelli, "It takes two to tango."

Hearing Santenelli, I wanted to tell him a story, a true story about me when I was in middle school. I got what I thought was a great deal on this fat book of coupons: big discounts at all the shops and restaurants I most often patronized, and these hundreds of coupons only cost me 20 bucks!

The coupons were of course bogus. Someone had just printed them up and then flogged them off to anyone that was naive enough to think they were legit--like a thirteen-year-old kid. I would like to ask Santenelli whether in buying that booklet I was doing the tango or simply getting ripped off by an unscrupulous reprobate.


Shame insurance execs? LOL

THEY DON'T CARE. Wow, for an administration that is supposedly 11th dimensional political chess masters (just ask Rahm, he'll tell you himself), they are painfully naive about things. Shaming insurance execs? If insurance execs had any shame, they wouldn't be insurance execs in the first place.

The economic model of the insurance industry is based upon NOT backing up the product they sell to people. On denying people health care after taking their money and promising to provide it.

The health care insurance industry is inherently immoral. You cannot shame something that already has no scruples.

What's next? Finger-wagging?


Pretty easy to tell who has run up against our healthcare system vs. those that have not in these comments.
Anyone who ever has understands the importance of chaging a system that is controlled by big business.


the poster named Markus sounds A LOT like Hitler. If you knew anything about social science, you'd know how discredited social darwinism is. You are a poor excuse for an American; by not supporting your fellow citizen, you aren't supporting progression of the nation. One day, some unfortunate circumstance will befall you & you will learn that this issue is a matter of enlightened self interest.


Oh sweetheart, the insurance executives have shame for breakfast. They'll wipe their butt with your letter. Trying something manly next time!

d Toma

The health insurance industry has made a mockery of the concept of free enterprise,no competition and no safe guard for the balance of the national economy...

definition: free enterprise
Function: noun Date: 1890

: freedom of private business to organize and operate for profit in a competitive system without interference by government beyond regulation necessary to protect public interest and keep the national economy in balance

David George

This a moral issue. Which is why we need Government non profit health care for all. With everyone in the pool costs would be much lower and no one would be denied the care they need. This is the conclusion most civilized nations have come to why not us?

Rick Douglas

Here's a little something to chew on:
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money given to both parties, the Democrats received 29 million from the health industry versus 20 million to Republicans during the 2010 election cycle.


Health care is one of the 10 mysteries of my White House:




Pay for your own way! Lazy, pathetic, dependant liberals. It is no one's fault but your own if you are too feeble to read contracts before you sign them, take out loans you can't afford, drown in student loans after choosing college majors that don't lead to well paying careers. You deserve poverty not hand-outs. As you heathens love to promote the concept of darwinisim... this is darwinism at its finest!


The one issue that's never seems to be addressed is why medical care is SO EXPENSIVE? Doesn't it strike anyone as strange that new medical technology only INCREASES costs? That's not true with any other technology that is in common use.

A hospital charges $2500 for an MRI. The ins. company has a negotiated rate of $800, but if you're uninsured your are charged the entire fee. What sense is there in that?

While I understand and support a capitalistic market system, we haven't had one in nearly 30 years. The corporations
write the rules that govern them.

And, while each state has individual requirements regarding health insurance policies, just who do you think lays out those parameters?

Our healthcare system is sick adn the only cure is to remove the profit motive.

stephen (Toronto)

It never ceases to amaze me when I listen to Americans debating health care. The media and big business have got so many of you brainwashed it is not funny.
No-one in Canada uses the term "socialized medicine."
There is no stigma attached to our system. Rather, most people here are highly suspicious of private health care, precisely because it is understood that when anything is paid for by insurance companies it becomes crazy expensive. Like auto collision repairs. Ask any doctor who knows our system about the quality of care here. A friend of our family is a kidney specialist who used to live in Canada, but retired to the states. He says categorically that in terms of quality, there is nothing you can get in America that you don't get in Canada. Stop listening to people who have a vested interest in scaring you to want to maintain the outrageous gravy train that is your system.


How about this? Issue an executive decree that we no longer can or will afford to provide health care benefits for members of Congress and their freeloading families. They are now on their own. If they wish coverage, they can have the same coverage that they legislate for the rest of us, the unwashed.

Gerald Gaskins

I am not as fortunate as the woman that wrote this letter. I have insurance, but I cannot use it because I cannot afford the outrageous out of pocket cost. As a single dad on a state salary with a history of cancer and other medical problems, there is no way for me to pay the co-pays, deductibles, and co-insurance fees, along with the increasing premiums that I have to pay. I was also an ER nurse for almost 15 years. Let me tell you that a large majority of individuals have figured out that it is much easier to just not have insurance and walk in to the ER when something is wrong. Thanks to EMTALA its the way to go. Maybe everyone should just not have health insurance and then real health care change would take place.

Carolyn Shapiro

It absolutely boggles my mind that President Obama is using this letter to show how "bad" the insurance industry is!
Ms. Canfield shoud be thrilled that she didn't meet her self imposed high deductible because she obviously had a relatively "healthy" year! If she had gone over the $2500 deductible the insurance company would have paid more!
We are all paying for various types of insurance-- homeowners, auto, long term care, life, etc.--should we start complaining that we paid the premiums but the insurance company paid $0 ???

The use of these letters is absolutely ridiculous. How come we are all feeling sorry for the poor woman who used her dead sister's dentures, but no one has commented that DENTAL insurance is NOT part of this medical bill?


I don't think that the insurance executives can be shamed into anything. They are way beyond that emotion. They have evolved into a different species.


I have a similar situation as the women who wrote the letter that President Obama shared.

I am mid forties, married to mom to two children under age 12.. Husband is employed with a small to mid-size private company. Last year we paid $500 a month, $140 month prescriptions and one child had her tonsils/adnoids out. Because our insurance was a $5K deduct. per person annually - the entire operation was paid for out of our pocket. We are not high risk. No one smokes, has had cancer or any other diseass associated with ill health. But as of January 2010 our insurance went to $700 with a $5K deductible per person per year. We will probably have to drop insurance because we just can't afford it! We are hard working people with young children who don't qualify for assistance. I feel like we have been fed to the sharks and no one cares. There is nothing we can do because we don't have enough money to pay politicians to listen to us!


While I'm happy that the President presented the insurance industry with this letter, if for no other reason than it puts it out there, the time has come for the administration to recognize that they are dealing with an industry that comprises large pockets of amoral people and that, just like fanatics of any sort, you can't reason with them, all you can do is pass legislation that modifies their behavior. I'm reminded of the famous response of Martin Luther King when President Eisenhower told him you can't legislate morality: "True, but you can legislate behavior."


Medicine is the art of keeping the patient amused while nature takes its Course!

Capt. Colin Cameron-Tough

It would all be very simple if the new Messiah made change happen! This guy is a faux and hoax. Nice job if you get it!

Stuart Rankin

Shaming Isnt the point

illustrating to the American
public WHY reform
is essential is what matters

This letter us an underscoring of this tact

Ellen Lawson

I just want, as a Medicare recipient, to remind folks who want to buy into Medicare that it does not begin to pay all the bills. One simply must have a supplement. The supplements are very expensive and you will, even after that, have a large number of bills to pay yourself. You pay your Medicare premium, your premium for the supplement, the deductibles for both and likely still have bills left that are not covered. Think about it.

Roy Merritt old car guy

While I can relate to the letter writer because my wife is in a similar situation I think trying to shame them will do no good. The Corporations hide behind the company and there is no person to step out and show his or her face. These people are eliteists who are just like the families that run Mexico. They are triators to America because they care only for money instead of caring about their fellow Americans. We started down this road when we let Ronald and Jack push through the tax cuts for the wealthy and George Bush sealed the deal. We are paying for it with our lives and our livelyhood.


The point is that healthcare should be a public service. Only then is there a chance of changing the larger dynamics that currently create and perpetuate a rich healthy class and a poor sickly one.


Hey David, You failed to complete the story, so I'll help you.

Next month, after paying the premiuns for many years, you get a serious illness, and you submit the first claim. The insurance pays the claim and then drops you drops your coverage.

Guess what, YOU"RE SCREWED!


The bill WILL prevent companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

The teeth behind it besides the illegality of doing so is the subsidies being provided by the government to offset the costs of higher risk people being insured.


A letter written by anybody to anybody in the upper echelons of corporate America asking that they consider the well-being of the American people on their race to more wealth makes the assumption that the recipients care about America and the American people.

I have seen no indication that they give a rat's bootay since the Republicans used "flood-up/trickle-down" economics to unleash greed upon America like a Biblical plague in the early 1980s.


Beware, beware, beware. The claim that the new health insurance legislation will prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to people with disabilities is accurate only in word, not in deed.

The bills fail to provide a guarantee that people with disabilities won't be charged more than other people. The last I heard, the bills EXPLICITLY permit insurers to charge disabled people 300% of the regular premium. In other words, triple.

So... you're not being DENIED coverage. You're just being offered coverage no one -- much less a disabled person who cannot work -- could possibly afford.

Health care discrimination against disabled people KEEPS us disabled, and that's bad for the country as well as for disabled individuals and their families.

We need mandatory "community rating" pricing, which forbids singling out individuals for special punitive rates, or we need a robust public option, or we need Medicare for the working generations -- Medicare for all who choose to buy into that system, rather than keep their private coverage.

michael rohde

I struggle with the idea that we are engaged in such a fight. Are we really arguing about whether or not our neighbor, friend, fellow citizen, or family member should have affordable health care available if they get sick? I cannot think of anyone that I don't want to have medical care if they need it. If Osama Bin Laden were captured tomorrow, incarcerated and became ill, I would want him to receive medical care. Not because I like him or what he has done. I despise what he did, taking 3000 innocent lives out of hatred. A truly barbaric act. I will not become a hater, uncaring, or cruel, because I don't like what another human being does. I don't think that is my or any other person's perrogative. We don't have the right to bring harm to another simply because we can. Denying someone medical care when they need it is visiting harm upon them. It is wrong. It is not a close call. It is absolutely wrong in a civilized world. We need to figure out how to pay for it.


Health insurance companies are attempting to weed out the weak and sick with their death panel tactics.

Alls that will be left to lift their obscene profits will be the strong and healthy.

Does that sound familiar to anyone from world history?

John Dingler

Shameless Corpos can't be shamed by a letter from a reliable contributor to their bottom line. Shoot. They are overjoyed that there are such devoted payers of bills, and glad that she'll drop insurance; She's in the high risk category. It's a win-lose, something that Corpo Insurance likes.

Nathaniel Leach

While I would like to think that this letter is emblematic of the issue that faces us and is one of the main needs for health care reform, I don't think it will work.

I'm sorry mr. obama, but people just cannot be shamed into being decent human beings anymore, as much as we may wish.


That is what insurance is all about. Every year I and my company pay thousands of dollars to premiums, but have had minimal amount in claims. Just because she paid more than she received last year doesn't mean she will this year and especially that wasn't the case 11 years ago. I hope to continue to pay more than I receive for many years but at some point in time I may ask my insurance company to cover a million dollar claim at which point I will come out on top, in a perfect world. The abomination is that after paying out, when I make this claim then they will drop me. This is the real crime.

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