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The Anthem Blue Cross headquarters is seen after the health insurer began informing its individual policyholders of rate hikes up to 39 percent to take effect at the beginning of March, on February 9, 2010 in Woodland Hills, California.
Anthem Blue Cross leaders will testify this afternoon before state lawmakers in Sacramento. The company announced in November it would increase premiums by as much as 39 percent and it quickly became a flash point in the national debate over health care reform.
President Obama yesterday put forward a national health care plan that would give the government the authority to deny or limit premium increases or demand rebates for consumers. Anthem Blue Cross says it needs to increase premiums because many of its younger, healthier customers dropped their coverage during the recession, leaving an older customer base more prone to illness.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted last week that profits for the country’s 10 largest insurance companies outpaced inflation in the last decade 10 to one. Anthem’s parent, WellPoint, reported a $2.7 billion profit in the last quarter of 2009.