The woman tells the L.A. Times’ David Lazarus that shortly after notifying Anthem Blue Cross about her move, she was told her monthly rate was jumping from $418 to $524. That’s on top of an annual $5,000 deductible.
“I’m going to the same doctor,” she says. “I’m going to the same facilities and the same drugstore. Nothing has changed.”
But Anthem, a division of perennial Worst Company in America contender WellPoint, has apparently drawn an arbitrary line in the sand (quite literally; the woman lives out in the desert), and people on the other side of that line pay more than other policyholders.
And not only is there no real recourse for this — federal and state laws allow for insurance companies to hike your rate when you move to a new rating region — the woman can’t simply leave Anthem because of a pre-existing condition.
“When I was diagnosed, my doctor told me not to even think about changing insurers,” she tells Lazarus. “They won’t take me.”
That will eventually change, when she and others without employee-sponsored insurance will be allowed to buy coverage through new exchanges, which will be forbidden from rejecting a new customer because of a pre-existing condition.
But until then, she’s stuck either paying the jacked-up premium or going without insurance… which she can’t do because her condition puts her at an elevated risk for cancer of the esophagus.
For its part, Anthem actually has the gall to tell Lazarus that this woman lucked out. See, a few years ago she moved a distance of around 200 miles, and though she alerted Anthem to the change of billing address, the insurer didn’t realize this was a change of her actual home address.
According to Anthem, the woman’s rate should have jumped 19% when she made that move. But the company is going to play nice and not ask her to retroactively pay for the increase she should have been hit with.
We imagine that she’ll be among the first in line to check out the health insurance exchanges when they open in 2014.