State lawmakers to probe WellPoint premium hikes

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The Indiana House Committee on Insurance will hold a hearing Wednesday morning to examine premium hikes by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Indiana, a unit of WellPoint Inc.

Rep. Craig Fry, D-Mishawaka, plans to probe the Indianapolis-based health insurer’s premium increases on individual policies. Anthem policyholders in Indiana have reported increases of as much as 39 percent.

That’s as high as WellPoint hiked premiums on individual policies in California, which sparked national outrage after President Barack Obama highlighted them during a national television interview on Feb. 7. WellPoint executives will appear in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 24 to answer the questions of a Congressional committee investigating the matter.

WellPoint will send three representatives to the Indiana Statehouse on Wednesday to answer questions about the premium increases: Rob Hillman, president of Anthem Indiana; John Willey, director of public affairs; and Jimmy Lee, vice president for WellPoint’s individual business.

The Indiana Department of Insurance, which approved Anthem’s premium increases after an outside actuary evaluated them, will also send an official to answer questions from the committee members, said John Schorg, spokesman for the Indiana House Democrats.

WellPoint’s premium increases are scheduled to take effect in Indiana on March 1. In California, WellPoint has delayed its rate increases by two months while state officials investigate.

WellPoint officials have said the poor economy caused many healthy people to drop coverage, driving up rates for those who remain insured.

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