Anthem Rate Hikes Felt Beyond California

By: - February 27, 2010 12:00 am

Sharp rate hikes by health insurer Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield are causing ripples in many states amid a well-publicized plan by the company to increase premiums by as much as 39 percent in California. The firm insures hundreds of thousands of people across the country with individual plans that could see double-digit increases in their monthly premiums.

In Virginia, Anthem insures 3 million people, including more than 80,000 individual policy holders (as opposed to those who get their insurance through employers or the government) who could see their premiums rise by as much as 40 percent, The Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg reported . The paper this week highlighted the story of a woman who, beginning next week, must pay more per month for insurance.

In Maine, where about 11,000 people could be affected by proposed Anthem rate increases, residents from around the state this week traveled to Bangor to vent about the plan, which some customers said could force them to drop their coverage altogether, the Bangor Daily News reported . Maine’s insurance superintendent attended the meeting and heard testimony from about 20 people.

In Colorado, the state Division of Insurance is investigating Anthem’s proposed hikes after what Insurance Commissioner Marcy Morrison called “a significant spike in the number of complaints about rate increases,” the Denver Business Journal reported . Anthem has about 94,000 individual policy holders in Colorado. Morrison has the power to deny Anthem’s rate hikes if she deems them too high, the result of a 2008 state law that gave the insurance commissioner broader powers, the Business Journal reported.

California is taking perhaps the most aggressive steps of any state to try to stop or slow down the rate hikes. The attorney general on Thursday (Feb. 25) subpoenaed records from the state’s seven largest health insurers, including Anthem, as part of an investigation into potentially illegal rate hikes, The Los Angeles Times reported . Meanwhile, the state Assembly’s Rules Committee authorized its own subpoena, seeking documents related to Anthem’s premium increases, The Times said.

Anthem has become a “lightning rod in the national debate over healthcare reform,” The Christian Science Monitor said , noting that the company was held up by both parties in Thursday’s health care summit in Washington, D.C., “as an example of why the federal government needs to take steps to keep rising insurance premiums in check.”

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