Wellpoint (BCBS) To Raise Rates in 11 States

It's not just California. Think Progress reports Wellpoint (Blue Cross Blue Shield) is going to impose double-digit rate increases in 11 of the 14 states it does business. In addiition to California, the states are: Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Virginia, and Wisconsin.”

The findings are based on a new survey by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Here's a sample:

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.

Nevada: 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.

Small employers in New York, watch out:

There are also signs that WellPoint has substantially increased rates on “small group” policies, which cover small businesses with up to 50 employees. Data wasn’t immediately available in many states, but in New York WellPoint is increasing premiums on small group policies by up to 28.6 percent this year.

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    An important stat to consider with these increases (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by magster on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 01:45:05 PM EST
    is that Wellpoint's profits increased eightfold in just the last quarter to $2.7 billion.

    I'm sure Mr. Bayh is very pleased (none / 0) (#8)
    by shoephone on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:14:17 PM EST
    seeing as how his wife sits on the board of Wellpoint.

    Leave Mrs. Bayh aloooone (none / 0) (#10)
    by ruffian on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:16:55 PM EST
    It is meanies like you that are driving a shining light out of the Senate. /snark

    denominator? (none / 0) (#32)
    by diogenes on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 06:54:29 PM EST
    1.  The total revenues of wellpoint are about sixty billion; even if they made NO profit based on the fourth quarter rate there would only be a one-off rate decrease of 16%
    2.  Profits were 334 million the year before in the fourth quarter and mostly run about 4-5 billion a year, not ten billion a year.  
    3.  Lots of insurers are not for profit.  What sort of rabble do you raise about them?
    4.  The private market seems to work fine for car insurance, life insurance, etc.  Maybe it's messed up for health insurance because of the way health insurance is different--because people get it tax free at work and because it is not portable.  You can't buy the cheaper insurance advertised by the gekko if you get insurance through the job.

    Differences (none / 0) (#33)
    by ruffian on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 10:17:53 PM EST
    Also the market is not the same for health insurance because the benefits are used regularly, as opposed to life insurance (used once) and car insurance (possibly never used). And of course car insurance is mandated in just about every state, keeping the pool large.

    I've heard two different reasons/excuses given (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by ruffian on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 01:53:04 PM EST
    Both on NPR. 1, this morning, the reason I believe: So many people have dropped their coverage that they are raising premiums on the remaining people to make up the difference. 2, this afternoon, the one I don't believe: rising health care costs.  I simply don't believe that provider fees have gone up 20%, let alone 39%.

    How many more people are going to drop the coverage because of these increases? Will they then increase them even more to keep up? So much for the free market - did it occur to them to lower the premiums to attract back the customers they lost?

    I don't think there is a better example of why this system is broken and unsustainable. Single payer is really the only way to fix it.

    The people who are dropping... (none / 0) (#4)
    by kdog on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:02:56 PM EST
    coverage are the smart ones...since we're stuck in this game we should at least improve our strategies...play "make the sucker pay" like the titans of industry for awhile and see what happens...bring this situation to a head.

    Like say what would happen if everybody cancelled their insurance coverage at the same time?  How long before the ins. co's are calling back with 50% cheaper rates...20 minutes?


    Hey, that was my idea last summer (none / 0) (#5)
    by ruffian on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:06:00 PM EST
    Everyone just drop it at the same time. Only way to see what the real market price of both insurance and health care is.

    That's a nice thought (none / 0) (#6)
    by jbindc on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:06:01 PM EST
    But a risky one - what if you drop your insurance and then you get in a car accident?  Or fall down? Or get a disease?  Those will end up costing you tons more money.

    It's just too big a gamble to stand on principle, unfortunately, and that's why they have us over a barrel.


    yeah, I know (none / 0) (#7)
    by ruffian on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:08:18 PM EST
    it only works if everyone does it, and provokes a crisis that gets resolved to the better before I get hit by a bus. Not really a practical plan.

    True... (none / 0) (#12)
    by kdog on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:23:41 PM EST
    but as the sayings go..."nothing ventured nothing gained", "better to die on your feet than live on your knees"...and my favorite, "life is a gamble".

    Besides, millions of us live that gamble everyday.


    And that's why we need (none / 0) (#13)
    by jbindc on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:24:57 PM EST
    single payer.  No one should have to take that gamble.

    We ain't getting single-payer... (none / 0) (#14)
    by kdog on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:29:41 PM EST
    so what else can we do except a) pay the ridiculous vig or b) gamble on a fight.

    I can't afford to gamble (none / 0) (#15)
    by jbindc on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:35:08 PM EST
    I don't have the strength or courage to live in a box if I get sick and can't afford to pay the rest of my bills.

    That sums up... (none / 0) (#20)
    by kdog on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:41:44 PM EST
    exactly how the bastards always win...always.

    Eventually we will reach a point where living in that refrigerator box is the preferred option, then things will start to get better.  I ain't looking forward to the worse before it gets better.


    If you get in a car accident (none / 0) (#16)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:35:33 PM EST
    or get an expensive disease, insurance may very well DROP you.  At minimum, they'll do their darndest to find a reason to drop you.  At minimum, this is true on the individual market.

    Insurance really isn't insurance anymore.  


    I was always worried about single (none / 0) (#9)
    by hairspray on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:14:55 PM EST
    payer. First of all, most of America is a little more red than blue and more libertarian than the coasts. I have always thought that the Kaiser model is the best one and would satisfy all screwball critics since it is not government run.  But after reading Carolyn Lochhead's article in the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle about the 4 cartels driving up costs, I must admit that a major overhaul is needed.  Piecemeal is not going to work.  If they won't entertain a Kaiser model then I think single payer is the best. What is interesting about this is that surveys have shown the public thinks a major overhaul is needed.  They get that even Obama's plan is nothing but s&*^t.  The number of teabaggers is less than 30%.  The liberals and the moderates see what is wrong with Obama's plan. And they are the other 70%.

    Tea Partiers-Keep your gov't mitts off my Medicare (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by jawbone on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 03:19:13 PM EST
    Analysis has shown a high majority of the Tea Party folks are conservative Repubs.

    But they don't want to give up Medicare.

    So, why didn't Dems try to Medicare (improved and all that) for All...with a robust private option????


    I know what you mean (none / 0) (#11)
    by ruffian on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:20:21 PM EST
    I was reluctant until I read more about it and really focused on how horrible our current system is compared to other countries. I'm sure it is not perfect in France, Canada, the U.K., etc. but they certainly seem to have figured out a lot of things we have not.

    All of the countries (none / 0) (#18)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:39:02 PM EST
    you mentioned have adopted the mammography policy that US women were up in arms about (performed every 2 years OR LESS after 50).

    Just one example of cost controls implemented by socialized med or single payer systems that US citizens would be completely furious about.

    I'm for single payer, but you can't say people get the same treatment they do in the US, for less money.  They don't.


    Have their breast cancer rates gone up (none / 0) (#22)
    by ruffian on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:56:27 PM EST
    because of that?  Maybe they do a better job of educating people about what is really necessary. Also, if I were paying $5000 a year instead of $10,000 a year in premiums I would have more money left in my pocket to pay for additional screenings if I want.

    I'm not willing to say the care is worse because of that one item.


    But their outcomes are better. (none / 0) (#23)
    by Anne on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:56:52 PM EST
    One would think, with all the can't-do-this, can't-have-that criticism, that people in countries with single-payer, socialized or hybrid systems would be far sicker and die much sooner than Americans do.

    But they don't.

    When we see how expensive insurance is in this country, with no ceiling in sight on that score, and that people who have it sometimes still cannot afford actual care, it isn't hard to understand how it is that we aren't healthier.

    More people being broke AND sick is just wrong; and that's where we're headed - soon to be joined by more of the Social Security/Medicare set, if I'm reading Obama's intentions correctly; misery loves company, I guess.


    as to the validity of the rankings of "outcomes," such as the rankings done by the WHO in 2000...

    Between this... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 01:57:30 PM EST
    and the new cc regs that are causing fee hikes...are we sure we even want a congress?  

    I can only think of one sure-fire way for prices and fees to go down...when people stop buying a pile of steaming sh*t.

    We should jump on it while its still legal to not have insurance or credit cards and bank accounts....before slavery is legal again.

    But they raise the fees (none / 0) (#17)
    by ruffian on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:38:22 PM EST
    because people stop buying it! Like it is a rare and precious jewel in short supply.

    I know I am preaching to the choir, just sharing in the absurdity of the whole thing.


    You're right... (none / 0) (#21)
    by kdog on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:45:44 PM EST
    I should have said "when enough of us stop buying...".

    The greed-mongers will hold out as long as possible, up to and including charging the last sucker in America 8 billion dollars a year for health insurance...its when the last of the suckers wise up that this thang turns around...from the looks of things it could take 500 years:)


    My Regence (none / 0) (#19)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:41:08 PM EST
    My Regence Blue Shield went up 17% last year.  I'm expecting another similar rate increase this year.  And yes, I dropped coverage because of it....I went from a decent deductible to essentially catastrophic coverage with some prescription meds added.

    My parasite's increase: mere 15% (none / 0) (#25)
    by jawbone on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 03:22:45 PM EST
    But that's better than some of the increases I've seen: 17%, 20%.

    NJ Aetna individual. Community rated.

    Of course, once you're into three figures for your mothly premium, a "mere" 15% hurts...a lot.

    Other Blues going with 39% increase, per commenter at Suburban Guerilla. Independence Blue Cross. Another commenter's increase was closer to 50%.


    And yet, we never see facts that explain why (none / 0) (#26)
    by vicndabx on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 03:23:56 PM EST
    the increases aren't justified.  

    I think when insurance company profits (none / 0) (#27)
    by Anne on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 03:33:10 PM EST
    are skyrocketing - and they are - it might be an indication that the double-digit increases are not justified.

    Seems pretty obvious to me.


    Skyrocketing (none / 0) (#29)
    by vicndabx on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 03:57:11 PM EST
    I know a lot of folks who wouldn't consider their 4-5% pay-raise "skyrocketing."  

    Must also be a whole lotta collusion w/the State Insurance Commisioners who, after review of actual claims data determine whether the rate hikes are justified.  You were on the right track in some of your other posts where you begin to acknowledge the costs for services rendered plays a role - the biggest role.  Public discussion on why medical costs are so high is what needs to happen.


    Collusion? (none / 0) (#30)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 04:53:09 PM EST
    Uh huh.

    Anthem Company Targeted for Market Conduct Exam
    by DORA's Division of Insurance

    The Colorado Division of Insurance has scheduled a targeted market conduct examination to begin on March 1 this year of Rocky Mountain Hospital and Medical Service, Inc. commonly known as Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.  

    The examination will review the rate filings that affect policyholders in the individual health market. The Commissioner of Insurance has determined there is possible harm to consumers which requires immediate action.

    "We perform market conduct examinations on a regular cycle, but can also call an exam when we are alerted to activity in the marketplace that may be detrimental to consumers," Commissioner Morrison said. "Our consumer affairs analysts noted a significant spike in the number of complaints about rate increases from Anthem.  We are conducting a market conduct exam at this time to review the supporting data in additional detail to determine if the premium rates being charged are appropriate."

    The market conduct exam is expected to take approximately eight weeks.

    Well no, of course they don't (none / 0) (#31)
    by ruffian on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 06:38:40 PM EST
    If their pay was skyrocketing, profits would not be at record levels.

    Yes, I would like to see a breakdown of what costs for medical services rose by 40% recently.

    Until then I will continue to believe that the rate increases are due to the shrinking pool of customers due to people dropping coverage. Makes sense to me that if their pool is smaller they have to charge the people in the pool more to keep the same level of benefits and profits.  It's a death spiral.  More people will drop out, and the prices will go higher, until, as kdog says, it reaches its logical conclusion and there is one guy left paying $500,000 for his premiums.  

    It is simply an unsustainable system.