Cover Story: Health care's scapegoats?

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - North Carolina's largest health insurer says don't blame us for rising costs.  And to get the point across the company just launched an expensive new ad campaign.

It stars goats.  We're about to find out if these ads make a valid point.

But first, here's the premise.  The TV, web, and print ads feature goats that represent various groups in the health care chain.

Blue Cross Blue Shield calls them the scapegoats of rising insurance costs.  The Insurers.  Drug companies.  Doctors and hospitals.  Attorneys.  And regular people.

Blue Cross says it's time to stop looking for these scapegoats and time to start talking about how to lower costs.

Once upon a time the medical profession was seen as a "noble" profession.

But now critics say the health care industry in the U.S. has become one giant money-making machine and there's plenty of blame to go around.

Will it take goats to get us talking?

"Here's what I think. Medical costs are skyrocketing."

One TV ad shows a dinner party blaming doctors for the health care crisis.. running up costs because of the expensive tests they run.  A goat is pictured in a white doctor's coat.

The tag line says, "Let's stop looking for scapegoats and start talking."

"This doesn't affect me. I have a good sense of humor."

Dr. Beth Perry, a primary care physician at Signature Healthcare in SouthPark finds it funny an insurer is going with an "it's not our fault theme."  She agrees there's plenty of blame to go around.

"I think the discussion has to start somewhere. Nobody would argue that our country has the most complicated.. expensive.. screwed up health care system among civilized nations," says Perry.

We spend more per capita, almost twice what most of the other developed countries spend on health care and don't even get the best results.  We have a higher infant mortality and a lower lifespan than other developed nations.

"There's a lot of people making a lot of money off of the back of Americans."

Which is the point of the ads.  Many are at fault for driving up health care costs, to many it just seems odd to be coming out of the mouth of a health insurer.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina CEO Brad Wilson says, "We want to educate, inform and stimulate discussion and debate about how together we can work to bring these costs down."

But with so much money at stake fixing it might be a nearly impossible task.

And who's to blame? Where do you start?  Doctors call for more tests for fear of being sued by lawyers.  Drug companies need to make a profit to pay for research and development.  While insurers are making billions.  And patients yes even you and me don't always take care of our health.

Which brings us back to where we started - with the violin.  Will we ever achieve harmony in the health care debate?

There's not a soul alive who doesn't hope that we do.

"Does it frustrate you when you see all the bantering? Yeah it does.. because I feel that nothing is getting accomplished. And people are suffering in the meantime," says Tina Krzesicki of South Charlotte.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina isn't saying how much it's paying for the ad campaign.. it'll run for the next year.

The website is

Why are they doing it?

They're the largest health insurer in the state and have come under fire quite a bit lately.

They're encouraging people to share ideas about how to reduce costs but the risk is it could backfire - here's a powerful company spending more money on marketing to deflect criticism.

Copyright 2011 WBTV. All rights reserved.