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Sebelius Lashes Out at Anthem for Premium Increases

Les Masterson, for HealthLeaders Media, February 8, 2010

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is demanding that Anthem Blue Cross publicly justify its decision to raise member premiums by as much as 39%.

In a letter to Leslie Margolin, president of Anthem Blue Cross, California's largest for-profit insurer, Sebelius bashed the premium increases at a time when WellPoint, Anthem's parent company, "earned $2.7 billion in the last quarter of 2009."

Anthem Blue Cross, which has 800,000 individual insurance members, recently told individual members that it is increasing premiums on March 1. The Los Angeles Times reported last week that those premium increases were as high as 39%.

"As we continue the healthy 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 said. "It's clear that we need  health insurance reform that will give American families the secure, affordable coverage they need."

In her letter, Sebelius said the premium increases are up to 15 times faster than inflation and could make healthcare unaffordable for hundreds of thousands of Californians.

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