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The Daily Tar Heel

A call to investigate: State justice department right to investigate BCBS

The N.C. Department of Justice is right to investigate the state’s largest health insurer for its potential misuse of automated calls.

Earlier this year, BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina launched a campaign against the so-called public option in the health care bill being debated in Washington.

As part of that campaign, an automated call sent by BCBSNC asked recipients to contact U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and encourage her to vote against any government-run insurance plan.

Those calls raised issues for several reasons. Some people thought it was inappropriate for BCBSNC to oppose a government-run plan.

Others were frustrated that BCBSNC might be using their premium payments to fund a campaign against a political issue they support.

But the justice department is investigating BCBSNC for the automated calls themselves.

Twenty state legislators signed a letter requesting that the justice department investigate these calls.

These calls seem to violate state law.

North Carolina law bars health insurance companies from making calls that are not related to a recipient or a family member of a recipient’s “health care, preventive services, medication or other covered benefits.”

The government-run health care plan is an explosive political issue that is not directly related to the services BCBSNC currently provides.

Therefore, the calls are inappropriate and possibly illegal.

Lew Borman, a spokesman for BCBSNC, wrote in an e-mail that the company is trying to protect customers and North Carolinians from the large premium increases they would see from the proposals in Congress.

That might be true. Their campaign is informative. And they have a right to say whatever they please about the health care overhaul — just not with robocalls.

The public option issue is simply too incendiary to fall under the law’s provisions for allowing such calls.

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