Anthem To Hike Rates Again

Americans and Mainers are starting to see the effects of the two major health reform laws of the last few years. The federal Affordable Care Act doesn’t cover everyone, but it has provided more access to care for more people and will do more as more provisions of the law go into effect. The health insurance industry deregulation bill, on the other hand, which was passed by Maine’s Republican Legislature and signed into law by Governor LePage last year, has decreased access by dramatically increasing rates. 

Recently it was reported that 12,000 Maine people saved a total of 6.3 million dollars on prescription drugs due to the Affordable Care Act and the savings will continue to grow. Starting in 2014, even more Maine people will greatly benefit from the Act, if the state does its part. The Maine Legislature is currently considering how they will move forward with implementing a health insurance marketplace, or exchange. Unfortunately, Anthem is spending a great deal of money to make sure the system works better for insurance companies than it does for real people. 

The Maine People’s Alliance, with the help of a national organization, the Alliance for a Just Society, recently released a report detailing just how much money insurance companies have spent lobbying our legislators in recent years, and how that money has affected the exchange legislation being considered. In the first quarter of 2011 alone, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield spent close to $38,000 on lobbying in Maine. This comes after the $35,000 they spent in Maine in 2010. Aetna follows closely behind with a reported $30,000 spent in 2011, and $16,000 in 2010. The report graded the two bills to create an exchange that are in front of the Insurance and Financial Services Committee. One bill received an “F” for having too many insurance insiders running the exchange. The other bill received a “B.”

People in Maine should be aware of what the private health insurance companies are doing to stay ahead of the game.  In order to move towards a comprehensive new solution to the health care crisis, an exchange which honors the nature of the Affordable Care Act should be enacted. It’s obvious that the insurance companies are trying to buy an exchange that works for them, instead of one which works for citizens of Maine. Right now, it’s important that Maine people speak out and make sure their legislators create an exchange that works for real people, not insurance companies.

Anthem also played a role in LePage’s insurance industry deregulation. Last year MPA took action to try to prevent the passage of LD 1333, a bill that we believe will cause rates for individual policy holders to skyrocket, and allow insurance companies to unfairly discriminate against older and rural Mainers. Unfortunately, the bill is now in place as Public Law 90 (PL90). 

One of the most dangerous parts of the law is a provision allowing Anthem and other insurance companies to raise their rates on individual policy holders by 9.9 % every year, without review by Maine’s Bureau of Insurance.

Anthem has tried to raise their rates significantly for each of the last 3 years, but the amount by which they were allowed to raise them was limited by a process that allowed for community input and government oversight.  The most recent review resulted in Anthem being allowed a 5.2% increase, instead of the more than 20% it requested, but Anthem sued the state, demanding a guaranteed profit (they have been denied so far). 

Anthem usually raises it rates around February or March, so the next rate hike is likely rapidly approaching. If your rate changes, please let MPA know.

The intense public debate over health care policy over the past few years has led to both Democrats and Republicans acknowledging that change is needed. People are talking about what is wrong with the system and debating the best way to fix it. 

The time now is right to renew the push for a universal single payer system in Maine. Much will have to be done to achieve such a system, and the first step is changing our politicians. MPA will be working hard in 2012 to make sure that true progressive candidates get elected in November, and that supported candidates pledge to vote for a single payer plan.

You can help by identifying great progressive leaders who should run for office, talking to candidates who are running to make sure they understand and support single payer, and doing the work to make sure they get elected in November.

Please contact Jennie at 797-0967 or jennie@mainepeoplesalliance.org if you’d like to get involved, if you’ve experience an increase in your individual policy rates with Anthem, or have benefitted from the Affordable Care Act.