A perfect storm is headed for Anthem…

Anthem Blue Cross continues to be in the white hot spotlight over its 39% premium hike.
Just consider the breadth of inquiries closing in on Anthem:

  • Angry, outspoken consumers. Anthem has about 800,000 individual policy holders in California, many of them now calling for a public option or a consumer walkout on Anthem.
  • The Assembly Health Committee Chair Dave Jones, who has long pushed a bill to regulate rates for health insurers. Watch for AB 2578 to be heard later this month. Assemblyman Jones is also seeking subpoena power to get more information from Anthem Blue Cross.
  • Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner has appointed an independent actuary to evaluate Anthem’s premium increases, especially to see if their policies meet minimum loss ratio standards.
  • Attorney General Jerry Brown has subpoenaed financial records and other documents from Anthem and California’s other top health insurers to investigate whether rates are being raised unfairly.
  • Congressional subcommittee members, including Rep. Henry Waxman (D), held a hearing last week to demand that executives from Anthem’s parent corporation, WellPoint Inc., justify the rate increases — effectively making Anthem Exhibit A for the case for health care reform and insurer regulation.
  • Consumer Watchdog, which has filed a lawsuit in Ventura, accusing Anthem of closing certain “blocks of health insurance business” to new business without offering comparable options, thereby ensuring that rates rise for those stuck in those policies. Duke Hefland writes in the Los Angeles Times that “plaintiff Randy Freed, 55, of Santa Barbara County, and his wife, Donna, were left with higher premiums and no options to shop around.
  • President Obama has repeatedly cited the 39% hikes as cause for substantial health reform, kick-starting the health reform legislation in Congress.
  • And tomorrow, on Wednesday, March 3, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is hosting what she is billing as a conversation with top executives of WellPoint, Aetna, CIGNA and the Health Care Service Corporation. The topic: How do the companies justify their double-digit premium increases and what can be done to keep them in check?

The scrutiny is warranted. The question is what will come of it… both in terms of information, and in terms of reform.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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