Individual mandate push resurfaces in wake of WellPoint rate hikes

The political ping-pong match over health reform received a jolt from Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius earler this week when she questtioned Anthem Blue Cross's 39 percent rate hikes. Now, after WellPoint's response letter to Sebelius claiming that its rates are fair and its increases are justified--and Sebelius's response to that response reiterating the importance of reform--talks of an individual mandate appear to have resurfaced, the Wall Street Journal reports. 

Under such a mandate, insurance costs would decrease because healthy people wouldn't have a choice of whether or not they could buy coverage, meaning more people overall would be insured, Democrats believe. Republicans, however, see a mandate as "unconstitutional and a big-government intrusion." 

"If the argument is that the WellPoint hike means we need reform, well, 'duh,'" said Michael Steel, spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). "But [the Republicans'] proposal holds down costs, without the trillion-dollar government takeover." 

White House spokesman Reid Cherlin, however, called WellPoint's profits "a stark illustration" of what average Americans have to go through daily. "You'd be hard-pressed to find a better example of why reform is so urgent," he said, according to the Washington Post. "[I]t's going to continue to be part of the case the president makes." 

For more information:
- read this Wall Street Journal piece
- here's WellPoint's response to Sebelius
- here's Sebelius's response to WellPoint
- read this Washington Post article