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A Teachable Moment for Health Reform

March 3rd, 2010 – Angela Braly, CEO of Wellpoint, Inc. has been quite busy the last few weeks.  Since Anthem of California announced rate hikes on individual plans that were as high as 39% for certain age bands on specific plans, Braly has been busy explaning and defending the rate increases to the public and Washington.   Anthem of Colorado’s rate increases are also under review by Colorado’s insurance commissioner.

Ms. Braly could have backed off or just kept quiet until the media’s interests died down, but instead she chose to speak out about what was behind the rate increases with frank honesty.   As CEO of one of the world’s largest health insurers, Braly understands that the factors that contributed to Anthem of California’s rate increases have serious implications in the current health reform debate and illustrate how the Democrat’s current Health Reform bill could do more harm that good.

When being grilled by a House Sub-Comittee last week she Ms. Braly was asked if she thought WellPoint’s premium increases were sustainable.  She answered, “Absolutely not.”  She pointed out that one reason for the rate increase was that as the recession took its toll on California many of Anthem’s younger and healthier customers dropped their policies, leaving less healthy people on the plans.  This illustrates both at a state and federal level how beneficial it would be to have an individual health insurance mandate, so there is a larger risk pool to dilute the costs of people that struck by illness and injury and keep premiums more affordable for all.

Ms. Braly also reminded the Washington politicians that rising health care costs from doctors and hospitals are one of the primary drivers of rate increases and that the Democrat’s current Health Reform Bill does very little to address that core issue that strikes to the very heart of providing affordable healthcare to all Americans.

Major hospitals repeatedly demand large double digit rate increases from insurance carriers and the insurance carriers are most often afraid to drop the hospitals out of fear of losing customers that want to go to those hospitals.  As a result those higher provider costs are passed onto consumers in the form of increased health insurance premiums.

She also reminded Washington that Anthem does not want to raise its rates any more than it must, or it will not remain competitive with other insurance companies.   Anthem is not alone in raising rates, by any means, but their rate increases have certainly been the most publicized.

Colorado, what do you think?    Click on the “Comments” link below to share your opinion.

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