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On Friday, Maine House Speaker Hannah Pingree and Senate President Elizabeth Mitchell wrote to two congressmen who have scheduled a Feb. 24 hearing on Anthem's pending rate hikes in California, asking them to also look into the proposed hike in Maine.
"We frankly have been very frustrated by the size of these increases," Pingree told The Associated Press. "Obviously, they are attempting to price certain people out of the market."
Last year, Maine's Superintendent of Insurance Mila Kofman rejected Anthem's initial requests, which would have increased individual rates an average of 18.5 percent. She allowed an average increase of 10.9 percent, with the highest increase at 32.4 percent.
Anthem sued the state. Oral arguments in the case are to be scheduled before the Maine Superior Court for mid-March.
Anthem spokesman Chris Dugan said Friday evening the company wants the court to review Kofman's decision because it didn't allow the company an operating profit. He said the rates requested for 2010 are needed "to make sure that we have adequate resources to cover the remaining members" in the insurance plans.
WellPoint, based in Indianapolis, has said it needs to raise rates so much because the weak economy has resulted in fewer people remaining in the individual market in California, and many who do have serious health problems. It says costs of caring for them have been rising due to higher provider prices and more use of diagnostic tests.
In Oregon, state insurance officials have concluded that rising costs justify the higher individual premiums, particularly because most insurers cut rates too much in 2006 and then got hit with significant losses. So double-digit increases, some 25 percent or higher, have been approved, or reduced a bit from 2007 to 2010.
Insurance Division spokeswoman Cheryl Martinis said the agency has started posting details of all proposed increases on its Webspace site and e-mailing customers want a proposal comes in so they can comment.
"People are extraordinarily upset in Oregon, as they are nationwide, about health care costs," she said.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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