(Washington, D.C.)-U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen today called on WellPoint CEO Angela Braly to explain the increase in New Hampshire health insurance rates despite the company's substantial profits. According to a report released today by the Center for American Progress, WellPoint, under the banner of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, intends to increase individual insurance rates in New Hampshire by 12 percent to 13 percent and has already increased premiums in the small group market by 17 percent. Meanwhile, the company posted a 700 percent increase in profits in the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to the same time period the previous year.
"I imagine your customers would be shocked to learn that while you are raising insurance rates on working families and small businesses during already tough economic times, you are posting enormous profits," said Shaheen in the letter. "Raising insurance rates on families and small businesses owners in this difficult economy to increase your already substantial profit margin is indefensible."
The full letter to Braly follows:
February 24, 2010
President and CEO
120 Monument Circle
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Dear Ms. Braly,
I was distressed to read a report by the Center for American Progress today revealing that WellPoint expects to increase health insurance rates in New Hampshire at a time when the company is reporting billions of dollars in profits. In fact, WellPoint posted a 700 percent increase in profits in the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to the same time period the previous year.
The report states that individual insurance rates in New Hampshire are expected to increase between 12 percent and 13 percent, and that premiums for the small group market were already increased by 17 percent in 2009. Year after year, families and small businesses across New Hampshire have faced increasing premiums, in some cases causing bankruptcy and job loss. The people of New Hampshire cannot continue to bear the burden of these rate increases.
I imagine your customers would be shocked to learn that while you are raising insurance rates on working families and small businesses during already tough economic times, you are posting enormous profits. Reports show that your company made a $4.7 billion profit in 2009. Raising insurance rates on families and small businesses owners in this difficult economy to increase your already substantial profit margin is indefensible.
Every single day I hear from people in New Hampshire about the crippling cost of health insurance. These people are desperate for help. As you know, New Hampshire already has some of the highest insurance rates of any state in the nation. Many small businesses are unable to afford insurance for their employees or have to pass more and more of the costs onto them, and more and more families have to make incredibly hard financial decisions about health insurance coverage. These families, small businesses, and our state's economy simply can't afford these drastic rate increases. Reports such as this further underscore the urgent need to reform the insurance system in this country.
On behalf of your beneficiaries in New Hampshire, I ask that you provide me with justification for this increase in premiums at a time when so many families are struggling. I have also contacted Senator Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee asking that the Committee hold a congressional investigation on these reported rate increases.
United States Senator
cc: Douglas Wenners, President and General Manager, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, New Hampshire