WellPoint/Anthem BCBS Decides Not To Be Completely Evil To California Policyholders

Nearly five months ago, Anthem Blue Cross of California and parent company WellPoint put their names in the running for Biggest Dickheads of 2010 by trying to raise rates upward of 39% for individual policyholders, a move that put the entire insurance industry under the legal and legislative microscope. In a move to seem like only a huge dickface, the insurance giant announced yesterday that it’s now proposing less grandiose rate increases.

The average hike for individual policyholders in California will now be around 14%, with peaks of up to 20% for some increases. Compare these numbers to those proposed in February — 25% average increases with some policies being jacked up as much as 39%.

But if you thought the country’s largest insurance provider in terms of policyholders, wasn’t going to whine like a spoiled brat who didn’t get the G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip for Christmas, you were wrong.

Boo-hoos a really, really well-paid WellPointer:

The rates do not cover our costs and are not going to be sustainable over the long term, but it made sense to move ahead… Given the environment, it was in the best interest of everyone to get this behind us and move forward.

Translation: Ever since we stopped practicing recission on breast cancer patients, we need to milk money from the policyholders who are least-prepared to put up a fight.

WellPoint has already taken in revenues totaling $877 million in just the first quarter of 2010. According to the L.A. Times, that’s a 51% bump from the same quarter in 2009.

Coincidentally, 51% is also the pay increase WellPoint’s CEO received in 2009. She’s now making $13.1 million.

Meanwhile, out in WellPoint’s home state of Indiana, the company says it plans to go ahead with an average rate hike of 21% for individual policyholders.

Perhaps WellPoint needs the extra cash to pay for the credit-monitoring it has to give the 470,000 policyholders whose medical, insurance and credit card information it exposed to online hackers.

WellPoint rolling back California rate increase [IndyStar.com]

Anthem Blue Cross again seeks rate hikes for Californians [L.A. Times]

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  1. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I wonder what it will take to finally get a true call-to-arms to have a public option.

    • partofme says:

      The same thing that everything else in the health care industry takes: a lot of money.

    • Mr_Human says:

      I don’t think it’s going to happen until employers begin cutting out insurance coverage in their benefits en masse.

      • banndndc says:

        I agree. As long as the vast majority have employer subsidized plans nothing will change. Individual plan holders will continue to be gauged since they are now (once it comes into force) required to purchase the product and employer subsidized planholders dont realize how bad the cost problem really is so they dont care.

      • dragonfire81 says:

        That might be sooner than you think, employers are cutting benefits/raising deductibles left and right. Insurance costs are higher for most people than they’ve ever been.

        But public or private option the money has to come from somewhere. If you want a public option, you’d better be prepared to pay it with higher taxes (and I’m speaking as a Canadian, someone who has plenty of experience with a public option).

        The biggest health care problem in this country is that costs are spiraling completely out of control. A public option won’t fix that. In my opinion before a public option is even considered, we need some measures to lower costs and improve efficiency across the board. If that worked well enough, we wouldn’t even have to consider a public option.

        Everyone makes the insurers out to be the big evil bad guys in the health care game. Yes, they do a lot of questionable things but they DO NOT set the prices for prescriptions, procedures and services. The providers do.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        I think they’ll just continue to chip away at benefits while raising rates, until a family PPO with a $10k deductible, which doesn’t cover pregnancy or prescriptions, that costs $20k/year seems reasonable.

  2. Mike says:

    The question is: How many people are we going to let die in our crazy system before we get REAL health reform?

    • JF says:

      Mike…. I’m going to assume you meant needlessly die, unless you have some secret to immortality you need to share……

      Otherwise your statement is like trying to ban dihydrogen monoxide considering everyone in the system eventually dies.

  3. sir_eccles says:

    Hmm, just got next years numbers from BCBS Illinois. Extra hundred something a month to cover me and my wife AND co-pays for doctor visits go up as do costs for Rx.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I’m dreading our renewal period. I’m in a small group plan and we’ve had two coworkers get pregnant and two very large claims for cancer. I’m betting our rates go up by 40% and our deductibles double.

  4. lawnmowerdeth says:

    Maybe this was the plan from the start, to make a 20% increase seem acceptable and make them look like they care about people.

    • whatdoyoucare says:

      This is exactly what I was thinking. Now no one will complain about a 20% hike. Evil genuises.

    • drkkgt says:

      It works for the gas companies. Raise a dollar, everyone screams, lower it by 50 cents, WIN.

  5. mythago says:

    Anthem….blargh. When I was looking for a short-term health policy I got a rate quote from Anthem BCBS, which looked not too unreasonable, and downloaded their application. It was full of open-ended, vague questions that were so obviously written by lawyers to allow them to rescind your policy any time they felt like it – I mean, come on, who remembers every respiratory illness (you know, like COLDS) that they’ve had in the last ten years?

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      You know, you can go to your doctor and get your medical records to fill those out…

      At least that’s what you’re really supposed to do.

      • mythago says:

        You know, I don’t go to my doctor every time I get a cold.

        • TuxthePenguin says:

          Yes, but that is the easiest defense when they say “you didn’t report everything!” You simply have the doctor testify that, yes, he reported everything we have record on. Anything else is heresay.

          • mythago says:

            You seem to think that insurers have to go to some kind of Recission Court in order to yank your policy. Please explain what “hearsay” has to do with getting a letter saying sorry, we think you lied on your application so we’re canceling your policy, good luck paying for that expensive chemotherapy and all.

  6. theSuperman says:

    Perhaps instead of jacking off-I mean jacking up, whoops- the rates for your customers, you could cut your CEO’s salary.

    It is ridiculous how companies routinely fire their long term hard working employees who make decent money to turn around and hire new people with not as much skill at a much lower rate, yet they give their CEO a ridiculously high salary for probably not doing much work.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      I don’t doubt that a CEO of a large insurer works pretty damn hard. I also doubt that they don’t work harder enough than the average employee to justify a salary that’s dozens of times larger than the average employee.

      Yeah, that’s grammatically awkward, but you get what I’m saying.

      • TuxthePenguin says:

        Its not just “how hard they worked” its also to compensate them for the length of education and experience they need to be able to rise into the ranks of CEOs. That and most CEOs are never really “off” or “on vacation” but need to be available almost all the time.

        Then you also have to factor in what your competitors are paying… a lot of it is market driven.

        Now, does that justify it all? Nope. But the two things that I sincerely believe drive it up at 1) tax law requiring most CEO pay to be bonus-oriented and 2) requiring disclosure of CEO salaries on financial statements. (Actually, I believe its now Top 5 combined, but the point remains). You know can really guess what the CEO of your competitor is making.

  7. Thyme for an edit button says:

    I’m in the market for individual health insurance in CA and I hope this doesn’t price me out.

    • youbastid says:

      In CA as an individual you can basically choose between Anthem, Kaiser, UHC and Blue Shield. They are all terrible, terrible choices for their own reasons. Anthem has a large network and lower prices but is the worst with rescinding policies. It’s what I have and I’m just sure if I get really sick I’m gonna get screwed, but I’ll be alright if I break an arm. With Kaiser you are extremely limited with who you can see. UHC is pricy as hell. I don’t know enough about Blue Shield except that they are accepted by none of the doctors I wanted to see.

      • Thyme for an edit button says:

        Yeah, it blows. I have a pretty decent PPO through Aetna right now, but I graduated (this was an AWESOME time to graduate) and have not found employment.

        I am looking at quotes and plans right now. Pretty much seeking a high deductible plan. Found one that looks okay-ish with Blue Shied and includes generic prescription coverage, but the co-insurance rate is 40%! That makes me nervous.

        • mythago says:

          People who have Kaiser tell me it is fabulous right up until you get really sick.

          A former co-worker who had Kaiser told me she called her Kaiser doctor because she was coughing up blood. He tried to talk her into minimizing her symptoms: oh, but it’s not a lot of blood, right? it’s probably just some streaks, not serious bleeding? Because otherwise, she might have had something expensive and there goes Doctor Cheapo’s cost-saving bonus.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        In CA as an individual you can basically choose between Anthem, Kaiser, UHC and Blue Shield.

        Isn’t Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield?

        • Thyme for an edit button says:

          I believe “Blue Shield of California” is separate from “Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.”

  8. TuxthePenguin says:

    You know, if you’re going to bash a company, at least make sure the numbers your throwing around are right. Their NET INCOME was $877 million, not their revenues.

    But also, you’re not really doing a good job (or the LA times isn’t). They should be comparing “Operating Revenue” since their Net Income includes extraordinary items (which, by definition are “infrequent and unusual in nature”.

    Take a look at the financials: http://data.cnbc.com/quotes/WLP/tab/7.2

    Last quarter they had an extraordinary charge (expense) of 300 million. This quarter, only 40 million. That’s a 260 million swing right there. Suddenly your 51% increase is only 3.61%. Amazing… add back the difference in income taxes… oh, suddenly there’s not an increase?

    And if you look at their operating expense, you’ll see that their operating expenses actually declined (mostly “Other Operating Expenses”), but their “Selling, General & Administrative Expenses” actually declined. Hint, hint: that’s where executive salaries go.

    At least get someone who can analyze financial statements to look at it – the LA times didn’t really look at it beyond a cursory glance, it seems.

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      “Last quarter” there means “Same quarter last year”. A bit too quick typing…

    • ARP says:

      “Selling, General & Administrative Expenses” actually declined. Hint, hint: that’s where executive salaries go.

      Yes, but how much would you like to bet that executive salaries did not go down. Instead, they fired a bunch of people and had the remaining people do their work for the same salary.

  9. Riroon13 says:

    Note to all those passionate against Obama’s ‘more regulation needed everywhere until we socialize everything’ policies:

    Please remind your big businesses to NOT act like TOTAL DOUCHEBAG ASSHATS before reform regulations are passed.

    Thanks.

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      Note to all those passionately for Obama’s ‘more regulation needed everywhere until we socialize everything’ policies:

      Please remind yourself to actually look at a company’s financial statements before acting like a TOTAL DOUCHE-BAG ASS-HAT.

      Thanks.

      • mythago says:

        You’re right. Those financials totally prove they were not trying to get rid of expensively sick policyholders.

  10. Puddy Tat says:

    These people should be thrown into federal pound you in the @$$ prison…..

  11. AngryK9 says:

    Insurance companies, Oil Companies, and every politician on the planet, are criminals

  12. sadkitty says:

    BCBS doesn’t pay claims when you get truly sick. I’m not sure what could be costing them so much, since it’s certainly not from paying claims.

  13. ericfate says:

    Thanks. Once again you correctly identify Anthem Blue Cross of California, but then lump it in with Blue Shield in both the title and the logo. Where is the disconnect exactly? Are you unable to read your own article, are you unable to perform basic research?

    Do you understand how much fun it is to work for a company who is hated not because you are doing something wrong, but because nobody gives enough of a damn to be accurate in their reporting?