Anthem Blue Cross To End Mid-Year Policy Changes And Repay Consumers $8.3M

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Anthem Blue Cross has agreed to stop making mid-year changes that raise out-of-pocket costs for individual consumers — and to refund $8.3 million to people who paid them in 2011.

Announced Tuesday, the agreement settles a class action in Los Angeles County Superior Court that alleged breach of contract and unfair business practices that reduced benefits available under consumers’ health plan contracts midway through the year.

About 50,000 customers who paid more than they should have in 2011 will share the $8.3 million. This includes some customers in Northern California, said Eddie Barrera, a spokesman for Consumer Watchdog, which jointly represented the plaintiffs with Shernoff Bidart Escheverria Bentley LLP. There’s no need to file a claim to receive the money. In December, Anthem will mail checks to those who paid more as a result of the mid-year changes.

All Californians enrolled in individual Anthem health plans will benefit from the settlement, which also bars future mid-year cost increases unless there are changes in law or regulations that allow it.

Anthem denies any wrongdoing. The health plan does not admit liability but agreed to the settlement “to avoid further expense, as well as the burdens and risks of litigation,” court documents show.

“Anthem is pleased that all parties were able to come to an agreement,” spokesman Darrel Ng said in an email.

Kathy Robertson covers health care, law and lobbying, labor, workplace issues and immigration for the Sacramento Business Journal.

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