IBJNews

WellPoint testimony drops green flag on health reform restart

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

If the health reform debate were an IndyCar race, then the next two days should have all the excitement of a late-race restart.

President Obama will try to reaccelerate his push for health reform, and zip around Republican opposition that appeared insurmountable after the Jan. 19  election of Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate scuttled the Democrats' supermajority.

In the middle of this action will be, of course, Indianapolis-based health insurer WellPoint Inc.

WellPoint CEO Angela Braly faces the klieg lights Wednesday when a congressional committee grills her about the company’s startlingly high premium increases for individual customers from California to Indiana to Maine.

WellPoint has single-handedly “breathed new life into the ashes of the health reform debate,” wrote blogger Matthew Holt, by raising rates as much as 39 percent in California and as much as 34 percent in Indiana.

In response, President Obama has proposed a new layer of federal regulation that could shoot down “unreasonable” rate increases. The insurance industry and even state insurance regulators cried foul, saying such a standard could bankrupt some insurance plans or force companies to stop offering individual insurance in some states.

But when even Hoosier conservatives who happen to be self-employed privately express outrage about WellPoint’s rate increases, Obama knows he’s got an issue that can give health reform another shove.

Democratic lawmakers in Indiana recognize that. Speaker of the House Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, and Insurance Committee Chairman Craig Fry, D-Mishawaka, sent a letter Friday to Congress asking it to investigate WellPoint’s rate hikes in Indiana.

“It is especially alarming that the largest rate increases affect the people that need the health care the most—aging customers and those already battling illness,” they wrote.

Republicans have denounced Obama’s 11-page reform proposal, which would make minor—but politically significant—changes to the bill passed by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 24. Obama will try to paint them as hopeless obstructionists at a health care summit on Thursday.

But the real issue is whether Obama can convince Democrats to back a health reform bill one more time when public approval has eroded. The bill has 43-percent public approval, according to a poll this week by the liberal Kaiser Family Foundation.

Obama promised to push his bill through the Senate using the budget reconciliation process that requires only 51 yes votes.

But the math in the House of Representatives is difficult. A health care bill passed in November by a vote of 220 to 215. But four of the yes votes are no longer there, due to one retirement, one resignation, the death of Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha and the promise of the lone Republican who voted yes not to do so again.

“I’m trying to be optimistic. But I think that everything depends on whether the White House decides to twist arms,” wrote blogger Maggie Mahar, in thehealthcareblog.com. “The president will have to persuade House liberals that this is a good first step—and that we can worry about improving the plan over the next three years.”
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. If I were a developer I would be looking at the Fountain Square and Fletcher Place neighborhoods instead of Broad Ripple. I would avoid the dysfunctional BRVA with all of their headaches. It's like deciding between a Blackberry or an iPhone 5s smartphone. BR is greatly in need of updates. It has become stale and outdated. Whereas Fountain Square, Fletcher Place and Mass Ave have become the "new" Broad Ripples. Every time I see people on the strip in BR on the weekend I want to ask them, "How is it you are not familiar with Fountain Square or Mass Ave? You have choices and you choose BR?" Long vacant storefronts like the old Scholar's Inn Bake House and ZA, both on prominent corners, hurt the village's image. Many business on the strip could use updated facades. Cigarette butt covered sidewalks and graffiti covered walls don't help either. The whole strip just looks like it needs to be power washed. I know there is more to the BRV than the 700-1100 blocks of Broad Ripple Ave, but that is what people see when they think of BR. It will always be a nice place live, but is quickly becoming a not-so-nice place to visit.

  2. I sure hope so and would gladly join a law suit against them. They flat out rob people and their little punk scam artist telephone losers actually enjoy it. I would love to run into one of them some day!!

  3. Biggest scam ever!! Took 307 out of my bank ac count. Never received a single call! They prey on new small business and flat out rob them! Do not sign up with these thieves. I filed a complaint with the ftc. I suggest doing the same ic they robbed you too.

  4. Woohoo! We're #200!!! Absolutely disgusting. Bring on the congestion. Indianapolis NEEDS it.

  5. So Westfield invested about $30M in developing Grand Park and attendance to date is good enough that local hotel can't meet the demand. Carmel invested $180M in the Palladium - which generates zero hotel demand for its casino acts. Which Mayor made the better decision?

ADVERTISEMENT