Sebelius asks Anthem Blue Cross to justify California premium rate hike

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HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
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In a letter to Leslie Margolin, president of Anthem Blue Cross, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently asked Anthem Blue Cross to publicly justify its decision to raise premiums for its California customers by as much as 39 percent.

Sebelius noted in the letter that the parent company of Anthem Blue Cross, Indianapolis-based WellPoint, earned $2.7 billion in the last quarter of 2009.

“These extraordinary increases are up to 15 times faster than inflation and threaten to make healthcare unaffordable for hundreds of thousands of Californians, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet in a difficult economy,” she wrote.

“As we continue the health 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 added. “It’s clear that we need health insurance reform that will give American families the secure, affordable coverage they need.”