opinion

What editorial writers are saying about the Anthem Blue Cross premium hike

The California-based WellPoint subsidiary informed individual subscribers that premiums would increase by as much as 39%.

Posted March 8, 2010.

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Insurance reform advocates said the development strengthened the case for more industry regulation, but health plans insisted that underlying costs of care were to blame.

Price controls?

WellPoint says its California subsidiary, Anthem Blue Cross, lost money last year on sales of individual policies in California. Maybe WellPoint is trying to charge more than a reasonable premium. In that case, the solution is competition, not regulation. Other companies are free to lure WellPoint policyholders with a better deal. Congress could spur the process by letting Californians buy policies from health insurers located elsewhere, giving WellPoint a lot more competition and affording consumers a wider range of suppliers. Chicago Tribune, Feb. 22

Reform, meet Anthem Blue Cross

The response from state and federal regulators was swift and heartening. California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who can't regulate rates directly but can limit insurers' profit margins, announced that he was hiring an independent actuary to scrutinize the planned increase. The House Energy and Commerce Committee and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also launched inquiries. To truly protect consumers, though, Congress should pass a health care reform bill that makes it easier for people to switch insurers without sacrificing coverage. Los Angeles Times, Feb. 11

Less health care for masses

California does offer a useful case study, but not for the reasons Democrats think. New regulations there make some people subsidize others in the individual insurance market. Young people pay more than what it costs to insure them, and older people pay less. The same discrimination occurs broadly between healthy and not-so-healthy people generally. Government-imposed pricing led many healthier people to stop buying insurance, which meant insurance companies ended up subsidizing coverage for unhealthy people. State regulations made higher rates inevitable. Washington Times, Feb. 25

Wave of higher health premiums on its way

Allow us to do the math here. Let's say you're currently paying $1,500 a month to provide modest health insurance for your family of four, which is a relatively reasonable policy in California. If you're lucky and only get hit with a 20% rate hike, you now have to pay $1,800 a month for the same insurance. And the chances are pretty good you're also either getting less service or higher co-pays to boot. If you are among the unlucky Anthem Blue Cross customers paying the top hike, your new monthly bill is $2,085. Not only is Anthem Blue Cross jacking up the rates, they sent signals that there will be more and more frequent rate increases in the future. Aurora (Colo.) Sentinel, Feb. 9

Anthem rate hike shines light on need for comprehensive reforms

That must be one sick bunch of Californians to justify a 39% rate increase, when medical costs throughout the United States are estimated to have grown by 10% in 2009. But it points up the problem that, as fewer people can afford insurance, it forces costs up for the rest, compounding the problem. Another possibility is that Anthem is playing games with its medical loss ratios, a common criticism by consumer groups. San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, Feb. 19

Health care summit more than theater

The latest warning to the complacently covered came from California insurer Anthem Blue Cross, which just announced that some individual policyholders will see 39% rate hikes. That justifiably sparked outrage across the country. But the hefty hikes faced by consumers in California and across the country are only part of the story. Consumers are also continuously required to dig deeper for higher co-pays and deductibles. Minneapolis Star Tribune, Feb. 24

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