U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today sent a letter to Anthem Blue Cross and called on the company to publicly justify its decision to raise premiums for its California customers by as much as 39 percent. In her letter, Sebelius notes that the parent company of Anthem Blue Cross, WellPoint Incorporated earned $2.7 billion in the last quarter of 2009.
"As we continue the health insurance reform debate in Washington, this announcement reminds us that too many Americans can be left with unaffordable insurance each time the rates or rules change in the private market," Sebelius added. "It's clear that we need health insurance reform that will give American families the secure, affordable coverage they need."
The text of Sebelius' letter is below.
February 8, 2010
President, Anthem Blue Cross
Delivered Via Fax
Dear Ms. Margolin,
One of the biggest pressures facing families, businesses and governments at every level are skyrocketing health insurance costs. With so many families already affected by rising costs, I was very disturbed to learn through media accounts that Anthem Blue Cross plans to raise premiums for its California customers by as much as 39 percent. These extraordinary increases are up to 15 times faster than inflation and threaten to make health care unaffordable for hundreds of thousands of Californians, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet in a difficult economy.
Your company's strong financial position makes these rate increases even more difficult to understand. As you know, your parent company, WellPoint Incorporated, has seen its profits soar, earning $2.7 billion in the last quarter of 2009 alone.
I believe Anthem Blue Cross has a responsibility to provide a detailed justification for these rate increases to the public. Additionally, you should make public information on the percent of your individual market premiums that is used for medical care versus the percent that is used for administrative costs. Policy holders in the individual market deserve to know if their premium increases would be invested in better medical care or insurance company overhead costs like salaries, profits, and advertising. I am aware that the State of California is investigating this matter, and urge Anthem Blue Cross to cooperate fully. In the meantime, I will be closely monitoring the situation.
At a time when health care costs are a critical threat to families as well as the nation's economy, I hope you appreciate the urgent nature of this request. I look forward to your prompt reply.
Secretary of Health and Human Services
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