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Lawmakers Grill Anthem Over Rate Hikes

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
The hearing in the Assembly health committee was tense – even confrontational at times. Anthem Blue Cross President Leslie Margolin and James Oatman of WellPoint, Blue Cross’s parent company, defended the proposed rate hike. The increase would average around 25 percent but could go as high as 39 percent. Democratic Assemblyman Dave Jones was critical, noting huge profits for WellPoint – and didn’t disguise his frustration:
Jones: “My constituents and the constituents of all of my colleagues are trying to hold on to their homes, hold on to their jobs and feed their families. Instead, you’re insisting on doing an up to 39 percent rate hike at the expense of these people. My last question of you, as the President and you, as a WellPoint Vice President is, have you no shame? 

Margolin: The President is one that is disappointing to me, Mr. Chairman. It is disappointing to me. It is disappointing to me on my own behalf, and it is disappointing to me on behalf of everyone who works at Anthem Blue Cross.”
That’s Leslie Margolin responding to Jones. Both she and Oatman maintain the rate hike is necessary to counter increased health care costs. They say more healthy people are opting out of coverage, which has also affected the company’s bottom line. The rate hike would affect Anthem customers who are insured on the individual market – which is about 800-thousand people. The increase was expected to take place next month, but last week the company agreed to postpone the hike until May. Oatman says they do intend to go forward with it. 
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