REPORT: WellPoint Raising Premium Rates By Double Digits In At Least 11 States

WellPoint CEO Angela Braly

WellPoint CEO Angela Braly

If Democrats move to pass health care reform after tomorrow’s summit, their newfound momentum can be at least partly attributed to WellPoint’s decision to drastically increase premiums in California’s individual health insurance market. The rate increases highlighted the broken health care system and pressured lawmakers to drastically reform the individual health insurance market. The administration’s strong response also enunciated the differences in lawmakers’ approach to reform and may have pushed the President to add stronger cost control provisions into his health care blue-print.

WellPoint’s hikes created a political opportunity for reform, but California policy holders aren’t the only ones experiencing drastic rate increases. A new survey from the Center for American Progress Action Fund has found that “double-digit hikes have been implemented or are pending in at least 11 other states among the 14 where WellPoint’s Blue Cross Blue Shield companies are active: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Virginia, and Wisconsin.” Below is a sample:

— California: Average rates are expected to increase 25 percent in 2010, with increases as high as 39 percent for some policyholders.

— Colorado: Average rates are expected to increase 19.9 percent in 2010, with increases of up to 24.5 percent for some policyholders.

— Indiana: Rates are expected to increase 21 percent in 2010.

— Maine: Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield requested a 23 percent increase for 2010 after five straight years of double-digit increases for individual policyholders. Anthem is suing the Maine Insurance Commissioner for rejecting its request last year for an 18.5 percent rate hike and allowing a 10.9 percent increase.

— Ohio: Average individual rates are expected to decline 40 percent in 2010 due to a new state law that went into effect in 2010.

Hikes are the kind of thing that bring lofty political rhetoric about the need for reform into reality for millions of Americans. More importantly, they could convince those who already have coverage to pressure their lawmakers on reform. This morning, House members will have an opportunity to question WellPoint CEO Angela Braly about the rate hikes when she appears before the Energy and Commerce Committee. But let’s hope they use this report to do more than just talk.

Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.


Nevada officials report that WellPoint requested a 17.6 percent premium rate increase for individual plans in 2010, and the state approved an overall rate increase of 12.8 percent.

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