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Wellpoint Defends Insurance Rate Hikes
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The parent company of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield has defended its double digit rate hikes in several states including Connecticut. The CEO of Wellpoint gave evidence to a House subcommittee Wednesday. WNPR's Harriet Jones reports.

Anthem asked Connecticut’s insurance department for permission to raise rates on individual plans as much as 24% last year. In California the insurer requested a rate rise of almost 40%. Wellpoint owns Anthem - CEO Angela Braly faced tough questioning from legislators on the house energy and commerce committee, Democrat Henry Waxman accused the company of raising premiums to boost profits and executive pay. But Braly told legislators the real villain is rising medical costs.

"Insurers are among the least profitable part of the healthcare system, and the part that helps the most in making a meaningful reduction in healthcare costs. Insurance industry margins are dwarfed by the margins of others in healthcare. Real reform needs to focus on the areas where systematic savings could be realized. The elephant in the room is the growth of healthcare spending."

The Democrats are turning up the heat on insurers as a way to kickstart the healthcare debate – Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has requested a meeting with executives from Aetna, Cigna and Wellpoint among other top companies next week to discuss rate hikes. President Obama convenes his high profile healthcare summit Thursday.

For WNPR, I'm Harriet Jones.