The Empire Strikes Back…

They’re back…

Anthem Blue Cross of California infamously opposed health reform both in California, and nationally–as we document on the website

Now the company has come out against the flagship bills to implement health reform. Anthem Blue Cross is circulating a floor alert opposing AB1602 and SB900, the bills that would set up the new health insurance exchange in California. The new exchange is the heart of health reform, the place where consumers will quickly, easily and affordably to get coverage, as well as the subsidies to better afford such coverage.

What is the basis of Anthem Blue Cross’ opposition?

* They oppose the Exchange’s ability to bargain for the best price and value on behalf of consumers. Anthem Blue Cross argues against the Exchange having the power to “design products and choose which carriers can sell insurance in the Exchange.” They would rather the Exchange is merely a flea market, letting all insurers sell whatever they want–rather than a purchasing pool that would use its market power to negotiate the best deal for consumers.

* They want to control the Exchange, and object to the conflict-of-interest provisions that exclude employees of insurers from being on the board. Anthem Blue Cross complains the bill “specifically precludes from consideration many qualified individuals with expertise regarding health insurance and insurance product design from serving on the Board.” The bills include such conflict of interest lanugage because the point of the Exchange is to represent consumers and purchasers of insurance. If the Exchange is to negotiate with the health insurance industry, it really shouldn’t have health insurance industry employee being on both sides of the table.

There’re other objections as well–they oppose the funding mechanism for the exchange, so as to better cripple its operations–but the details may not matter as much. Anthem Blue Cross opposed health reform in various incarnations, including the federal law. So its not a surprise that Anthem Blue Cross opposes the bills that seek to implement that law. But it should be a clarion call for California consumers about why we need to advance these bills, this year.

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

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