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Health Insurance Executive Defends Rate Hikes Before Congress

Wow, times are really tough for health insurance companies! Take WellPoint Inc., for example, the big insurer that owns Anthem Blue Cross, which is planning double-digit rate hikes in California. WellPoint President Angela Braly explained to a House subcommittee Wednesday that the rate increase was necessary and due in part to the recession, and that the criticisms of the health insurance industry that cropped up during debates about health care reform were “very misleading.” –KA

In prepared testimony for a House investigative subcommittee, Angela Braly, president of WellPoint Inc., blamed the increases on the growing price tags for hospital care and pharmaceuticals. She also cited the ailing economy, which has caused many younger, healthier people to save money by dropping coverage, leaving her company covering an older, sicker population.

“Raising our premiums was not something we wanted to do,” Braly said. “But we believe this was the most prudent choice.”

[…] Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce oversight and investigations subcommittee also invited some California residents to describe their experiences with Anthem.

In prepared testimony, Jeremy Arnold of Los Angeles said Anthem informed him last month that his rates would grow by 38 percent to $319 a month, which could force him to take a less expensive policy with higher deductibles and hope he doesn’t get sick.

“Hope is not an adequate health care policy,” Arnold said.

Braly expressed some sympathy.

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