The no. 1 cure for Anthem Blue Cross greed: Here’s the plan, from the expert

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Harvey Rosenfield, the founder of Consumer Watchdog and the author of California’s landmark insurance regulation, is the original expert on making insurance companies friendlier to consumers. So when he outlines a plan to make health insurance more affordable–and combat price spikes like the recent 39% annual increase by Anthem Blue Cross–he’s got 20 years in the trenches making insurance companies toe the line, to back him up.

He’s doing a detailed call Wednesday with reporters, along with consumers from California and other states who’ve been jammed by the soaring cost of their health insurance.

Here, for CW’s blog readers, is a preview of what he’ll say:

Rosenfield will lay out his plan for what should happen after the House gets it together to pass the Senate’s health reform bill, and a series of amendments. Even if that doesn’t happen, most of what is described below could still be accomplished by the White House and Congress, working with the states.

Rosenfield will call for a freeze on health insurance rates across the nation at current levels or below until the health insurance rate regulation requirements of the United States Senate bill are expanded and implemented to:

• Require regulators to grant prior approval of rate changes before they may be implemented;
• Guarantee the public’s right to intervene to further reduce rates;
• Increase federal grants to states for development of regulations;
• Publish strong federal fallback regulations to take effect in states that do not adopt effective prior approval regulation;
• Require consumer premium refunds if rates that have already gone into effect are later found to be excessive.

Here’s a report from the Consumer Federation of America that shows why the California regulation works, and ought to be applied to health insurance.

Under "prior approval" regulation, insurers would have to justify rate increases to state regulators before imposing them on us. Anthem Blue Cross’s California affiliate would have had to explain why the recent 39% rate increase was necessary in light of the fact that the company has transferred $4.8 billion in dividends to its parent company, WellPoint Inc., since the company merged in 2004 with Anthem. The California insurer maintains a surplus of $1 billion more than the law requires for financial safety, and has spent billions on other Wellpoint-affiliated companies for service contracts. Here’s Consumer Watchdog’s analysis of those billions in fishy transfers.

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
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