What does the Anthem saga tell us about health reform?

In early February, Anthem Blue Cross of California sent out about 700,000 notices to individual health insurance policy holders informing them that their rates were about to jump by up to 39 percent. On Feb. 13, the company called off the rate hike after the move drew criticism from the federal government and the public. What does the recent controversy in California over Anthem's proposed rate hikes tell us about the need for health reform?

Posted by Rachel Saslow on February 17, 2010 11:14 AM

All together now: We need comprehensive reform

Anthem Blue Cross's proposed 39 percent premium increase highlights the need for comprehensive health reform. Although the company makes a convenient poster child for the greediness of the insurance industry, the real lesson from this episode does not concern the real or alleged perfidy of any one firm. Rather, this episode underscores the need for comprehensive reforms if we have any realistic prayer of achieving universal coverage. Anthem is not especially unethical or mean. It is simply operating within an insurance market that is not sustainable, and that makes it too hard to treat people with the decency everyone deserves.

Posted by Harold Pollack, on February 18, 2010 3:59 PM

Get at the root causes

If we continue to tackle the insurance problems and do not get at root causes, that would be like Toyota continually paying for brake and accelerator replacements without getting at why brakes and accelerators are failing.

Posted by Michael Critelli, on February 18, 2010 3:41 PM

A good outcome, not a good policy

The insured can't depend on someone in the White House's communications shop noticing when an insurer tries to screw its customers. What we need is an actual policy standing between the insured and the grim incentives of their insurers. That's what health-care reform is meant to be, and the Anthem saga is a good example of how it would work.

Posted by Ezra Klein, on February 18, 2010 11:13 AM

The imperfect market for individual health insurance

Sadly, there are lots of buyers for individual health plans but very few sellers. Thus, it's a seller's market for a product that most health insurance plans haven't figured out how to build, market or price.

Posted by Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, on February 17, 2010 1:49 PM

Individual mandate means lower costs

Only when everyone is required to have health insurance -- just as car drivers must have car insurance -- will the costs go down.

Posted by Mary O'Neil Mundinger, on February 17, 2010 11:25 AM

Employers, not government, should blow the whistle

The very fact that the government is asking this question publicly is good evidence to suggest that there is a fundamental lack of understanding in terms of true market dynamics in health care and who really controls the purse-strings.

Posted by Sreedhar Potarazu, on February 17, 2010 11:14 AM


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