WellPoint: Rate hikes 'not an issue' in departure of Anthem Blue Cross president

Despite continued scrutiny surrounding California's largest health insurer, Anthem Blue Cross--which at one point this year was set to raise costs for individuals by as much as 39 percent--parent company WellPoint downplayed the notion that yesterday's resignation by Anthem president Leslie Margolin had anything to do with rate hikes, reports Los Angeles Times

In fact, Margolin said she only was responsible for the rates of the company's commercial business, and not those charged to individual consumers. The individual rate increases, she said, were "done completely outside of my purview," the Times reports. 

Still, the company last month adjusted its rate hike request to an average of 14 percent for individuals, down from an average of 25 percent. WellPoint insisted that it would lose more than $100 million for 2010, in part, due to that downgrade. 

"The rates do not cover our costs and are not going to be sustainable over the long term," Brad Fluegel, WellPoint's chief strategy officer, told the Times last month. But "given the environment, it was in the best interest of everyone to get this behind us and move forward." 

Margolin now will move on to head up Transforming Health Care, a coalition described by the Wall Street Journal as a "partnership of hospitals, doctor groups, health plans and consumer advocates" who want to cut healthcare costs in California. Laurel Kaufer, an attorney with the group, insists that despite Anthem's actions, Margolin has shown integrity.

"She might be able to accomplish a whole lot more from the outside to make healthcare better in California," Kaufer told the Times

Margolin will be replaced by Anthem VP of small group sales Mark Morgan in the interim. 

To learn more:
- read this Los Angeles Times article
- check out this Wall Street Journal piece
- read this Associated Press article

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