Anthem Blue Cross of California was on the hot seat again today, this time at a hearing of a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is chaired by California Rep. Henry Waxman.
We followed the action on our Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/healthaccess.
Most notable in the hearing was the release of a range of documents, including E-mails and board presentations, that revealed a different story than what the insurance executives state.
Among the most compelling findings, according to the majority report (emphases added):
* “Internal company documents appear to call into question WellPoint’s assertion that increasing profits was not a factor in the proposed rate increase. On October 7, 2009, Cindy Miller, WellPoint’s Executive Vice President and Chief Actuary, received an e-mail from a senior corporate actuary, Barry Shane. In this e-mail, Mr. Shane wrote that a premium rate increase averaging 23% would “return CA to target profit of 7 percent (vs. 5 percent this year).” The actual rate increase sought by WellPoint averaged 25%.
* “Internal company documents appear to call into question WellPoint’s assertion that the 25% average rate increase is necessary… On October 24, 2009, Mr. Shane, the actuary, e-mailed Mr. Sassi, the head of WellPoint’s individual market division, that WellPoint executives needed to “reach agreement on a filing strategy quickly – specifically in the area of do we file with a cushion allowed for negotiations/margin expansion, or do we file at a lower level that maintains margin, but does not allow for negotiation.” It appears that WellPoint elected to file with “a cushion.” In an October 21, 2009, presentation to the WellPoint Board of Directors, Mr. Sassi identified the “Key Assumptions” in the pricing for the individual market in 2010. This slide differentiated the “2010 Rate Ask” from the “2010 Plan Rate Increase.” According to the slide, WellPoint’s “Rate Ask” would be 25% to 26%, while the “Rate Increase” the company assumed in its “2010 Plan” was just 20.4%.
* “Internal documents suggest that WellPoint’s business plan includes moving consumers into less generous plans. This strategy appears to have three components. First, WellPoint’s highest rate increases seem to apply to their most comprehensive insurance plans. Maternity care is a marker for a more comprehensive package of benefits. A chart of proposed rates shows that WellPoint’s highest rate increases apply to the only two product families regulated by the Department of Insurance with maternity coverage. The chart also shows that for the most part, WellPoint proposed lower increases within specific product lines for the versions with higher deductibles than for the versions with lower deductibles.”
In response to questions from Congressional Representatives, Anthem Blue Cross executives offered little relief or explanation to California consumers for either their problematic practices or policy positions. The new documents begin and highlight some of the main unanswered questions: Why are the hikes so much larger than the rate of medical inflation? Are they targeting the increases to certain products or people?
And why are they opposing the health reforms that address their stated reasons for the rate hikes?
Angela Braly, the CEO of Wellpoint, the parent company of Anthem Blue Cross, used her answers to offer her critique of health reform. But the testimony of Anthem Blue Cross confirms the need for health reforms and greater insurer oversight, at both the state and federal level. Health reform would provide help so people would not lose coverage when they lose income, and provide subsidies so premiums never go over a certain percentage of income. The reform would not just help people with direct help, but keep healthy people covered and in the pool, preventing the adverse selection that Anthem decries.
Not to Anthem or Wellpoint’s liking, health reform would also provide new rules to ensure that insurers justify large increases and reject those without reason. Insurers should not be allowed to unilaterally raise rates without a reason, or to target rate increases for specific people or products.
Let’s not forget that they opposed not just the current federal reforms, but also was aggressive against state reform here in California. It was their practices and policies a few years ago that we described in this video from http://www.sickofbluecross.com/: