Anthem Submits New Insurance Rate Plan In Calif. After Earlier Effort RebuffedThe Los Angeles Times: "Embattled health insurer Anthem Blue Cross is reviving its plan to raise rates for tens of thousands of California policyholders, some of whom could see their premiums rise as much as 20%. California's largest for-profit insurer submitted new rates Wednesday amid pressure to scale back increases of as much as 39% that had provoked fury from consumers, lawmakers and even President Obama" and helped revive the effort to pass a national health care law. The company, part of WellPoint, withdrew that plan after state consultants found errors in the calculations for the rate increase. Anthem announced it is now "seeking a maximum increase of 20%, with an average hike of 14%. The original proposal called for an average increase of 25%. The new rates would take effect Sept. 1" (Helfand, 7/1).
The Wall Street Journal: "WellPoint's rate refiling doesn't solve the health-cost problem, though. Company executives said medical costs have continued to rise this year in California, as healthy people drop coverage. McKinsey & Co., a consulting firm, predicts that underlying medical costs nationwide will rise by between 7% and 9% for 2010, compared with last year. WellPoint's latest move could unnerve Wall Street. When the company pulled its previously proposed California rates in April, its stock fell almost 10% in one day. And the newly proposed increases are still in the double digits, which could reignite criticism from consumer groups."
The Journal also notes that "Aetna Inc. also refiled its California rates on Wednesday after withdrawing its prices because of errors in a previous filing. The insurer is standing by its plan to raise prices by 18.7% for individuals. Aetna writes about 65,000 individual insurance policies in California" (Johnson, 7/1).
Bloomberg Businessweek: "WellPoint officials said their new rates are lower for several reasons, including the use of more recent claims data and a hope that regulatory review would go faster. Further delay would 'just compound the issue into next year,' said Brian Sassi, president and CEO of WellPoint's Consumer Business unit. The insurer said it expects to lose more than $100 million this year on its California individual insurance business." The company's individual insurance plans cover about 800,000 in the state (Murphy, 6/30).
The San Francisco Chronicle: "State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner said his department would go through Anthem's rate filings -- along with those recently submitted by Blue Shield of California and Aetna -- with a 'fine-tooth comb.' Several consumer groups said the Anthem case highlights the need for greater rate regulatory oversight" (Colliver, 7/1). This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.