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Administration Rejects Anthem Blue Cross' Defense Of Premium Hike

WellPoint Inc., the parent company of Anthem Blue Cross of California, is defending its rate hike for customers with individual health insurance, but critics, including the Obama administration, are dubious. "In a letter to the administration, health insurance giant WellPoint Inc. of Indianapolis said that increases of as much as 39%, set to take effect March 1, reflect soaring medical costs and an exodus of healthy consumers from its ranks, " the Los Angeles Times reports. "Company executives said that less than a quarter of affected Anthem customers in California will see rate increases of 35% to 39%. The average will be about 25%, while some customers will see rates fall, they said.

GOP Looks To Make Its Case At Health Summit While Democrats Remain Skeptical

Politico reports that the White House's Feb. 25 health care summit with Democrats and Republicans "gives the GOP a venue to accomplish something it hasn't been able to do since President Barack Obama took the oath of office: Sell voters on Republican solutions to big problems." But Republicans have so far failed to capitalize because of the lack of a visible figure to champion their causes. Candidates to do so for the GOP include Sen. Olympia Snowe, Rep. Paul Ryan or Rep. Tom Price, each with a unique position on health reform. "Republican insiders say the GOP leaders must approach the event carefully " and do their best to tilt the odds in their favor, which can be difficult to do when facing the president on his own turf about one of his top issues" (O'Connor and Budoff Brown, 2/11).

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Kansas Bill Would Restrict Abortion Coverage In Private Health Insurance Plans

A bill (HB 2564) in the Kansas Legislature would prohibit insurance providers from covering elective abortion unless the customer purchases a separate rider for the coverage, the Kansas City Star reports. The coverage ban would not apply to procedures needed to save the woman's life, or in cases of incest or rape if a police report is filed (Klepper, Kansas City Star, 2/12). During a state House Insurance Committee hearing on Thursday, supporters of the bill said they believe a majority of Kansans find abortion morally objectionable and do not want to cover the cost of insurance premiums for the procedure. Jeanne Gawdun, a lobbyist for Kansans for Life, claimed that the "current situation of automatically covering abortion has infuriated many individuals, including private businesses that do not want to include this for their employees" (Milburn, AP/Fort Scott Tribune, 2/12).

Mass. Gov. Seeks Greater Authority To Attack Health Costs

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick asked the state legislature to grant his administration broad new authority to "review and reject" excessive rates charged by medical providers in hopes of curbing costs and making health care more affordable, The Boston Globe reports. Under a bill filed Wednesday by Patrick, the rates that "hospitals and other health providers charge insurers would be 'presumptively disapproved as excessive' if they increased faster than the level of medical inflation, and they could be rejected after a public hearing." Insurance premium hikes that exceed 1.5 times medical inflation could also be rejected (Lazar, Levenson and Weisman, 2/11).

KHN's Blog Watch: Different Shades Of Blue

In this installment of KHN's Blog Watch, Kate Steadman writes: "A snow-buried capital slowed many DC-based bloggers' production (cabin fever, perhaps?) but some are reflecting on the administration's public rebuke of health insurer Anthem Blue Cross. The California for-profit company announced rate increases Monday of as much as 39% for many individual plans" (Steadman, 2/10). Read entire article. This information was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with kind permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives and sign up for email delivery at kaiserhealthnews.

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Obama Calls For Bipartisanship On Health Reform; Pelosi Open To Reconciliation

President Obama on Tuesday met with Democratic and Republican leaders at the White House to discuss health care reform and other legislative priorities, USA Today reports. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) were among the attendees (Jackson, USA Today, 2/10). The two-hour meeting was the start of fresh efforts by Obama to draw greater input from Republicans for developing a health reform bill through "consensus, regardless of party label, " according to the Washington Post (Murray/Kane, Washington Post, 2/9).

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