April 2021
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Not Wellpoint Again?

There are times when you get an overview and then it hits you, “Somethings just don’t add up.” Well, you remember Wellpoint, don’t you? This is the friendly company that, around January or February, announced it was going to increase premium rates by up to 39% in a number of states around the Union. President Obama got himself all worked up, citing them as the real reason why all the Democrats in Washington should band together and take a stand against the insurance industry. Then, sure as eggs is eggs, there was a stampede to get the healthcare reform bill to the President for him to sign it into law. Those Democrats sure did have fun beating on Wellpoint. So the big question is what happened next? Here’s one of the largest corporations in the insurance market demanding premium increases. Did it get its way? The answer starts off in California where the maximum rate of 39% was due to take effect. The state referred the proposed increase to independent auditors for an opinion. The answer came back negative. It seemed Wellpoint couldn’t add up. Well, that’s oversimplifying things a little. But the reality is that the numbers Wellpoint offered to support their premium increases were based on some very shaky mathematical assumptions. When news of the report became public, Wellpoint withdrew the proposed increase. Acting on this, Kathleen Sebelius who is Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services sent out a letter to all state insurance commissioners encouraging them to review every proposed premium increase. This is the first sign that the balance of power is shifting against the insurance industry and in favor of the consumer. For too long, insurance companies have hidden behind complicated mathematical explanations and gamed the system. With the Affordable Care Act now law, Sebelius is encouraging every state to give itself the power to approve rate increases. The first sign of continuing good news for consumers comes out of Connecticut where Attorney General Blumental forced an audit of Blue Shield and Anthem Blue Cross, both Wellpoint subsidiaries. Connecticut’s Insurance Commissioner Sullivan rejected these companies requests for increases last year. It seems likely the same thing will happen this year. By moving so quickly to encourage states to review all proposed rate increases, Secretary Sebelius is demonstrating one of the key advantages now available to the Federal Government under the new laws. That the interests of the consumer will be put before the interests of the health insurance industry. This means every state should be going through a routine of analysis every time premium rate increases are proposed. The assumptions, evidence, claims histories and trends asserted should all be rigorously tested. If there are any problems, the increases should be denied. The aim should always be to ensure affordable individual health insurance plans are available to the majority of people living in the US. For too long, the insurers have been allowed to bamboozle regulators with math and complicated explanations. With independent audits now coming into play, the kind of success enjoyed by the citizens of California should be felt around the US.

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If you are interested in the point of view expressed by Norris Rios, visit for more of his professional writing on a whole array of topics that relate people all around the world.

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