California lawmakers grill Anthem Blue Cross execs over rate increase

The Sacramento BeeFebruary 24, 2010 

Anthem Blue Cross executives, under intense questioning by the state Assembly's Health Committee on Tuesday, defended the company's decision to raise premiums by as much as 39 percent on hundreds of thousands of Californians.

The panel's chair, Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, expressed skepticism during testy questioning that at times provoked awkward silences by the company's president, Leslie Margolin.

"How much profit is enough?" Jones asked. Margolin paused uncomfortably.

After collecting her composure, she said that her company, the state's largest for-profit health insurer, had no interest in profits beyond what she said were slim margins of 2 to 5 percent.

"Have you no shame?" Jones asked soon after – to which Margolin expressed disappointment at the question.

"We work so hard to do the right thing every day," she said.

The rate hikes have become a lightning rod for those looking to recapture the political momentum in the effort to overhaul the country's health care system.

Tuesday's grilling at the state Capitol served as a prelude for congressional hearings today in Washington, where executives for Anthem's parent company, WellPoint, could face a similar barrage of questions because of the controversial rate hikes.

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