Commentary: Don't buy into health care reform scare tactics

The poster child for rising insurance rates now is taking the lead trying to kill a signature piece of health care reform.

The company is Anthem Blue Cross, which sought rate increases of up to 39 percent for 800,000 individual policyholders in California. That came on top of a 51 percent quarterly profit increase and rate increases of 68 percent the year before. After public outcry and state investigation, Anthem settled for 14 percent average increases.

So it should not surprise anyone that the company is pulling out all stops to kill the California Health Benefits Exchange, passed in two bills by the Legislature in August (Senate Bill 900 and Assembly Bill 1602) — and still sitting on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk.

An exchange that can negotiate prices for a large volume of individuals — getting group discounts the same way that large employers do — would put much-needed competitive downward pressure on prices. Individuals not covered by an employer and small businesses would be able to select a health plan from a broad range of offerings.

Unfortunately, Anthem Blue Cross is being joined in its bill — killing effort by the California Chamber of Commerce — both of which are spreading a trio of fear-mongering falsehoods.

Falsehood 1: The two bills will create a new branch of government, with "no protections or accountability in the bills to prevent overly expansive and unnecessary regulation or taxation," as the chamber claims in a letter urging the governor's veto.

In fact, the exchange is modeled on an existing board that oversees three of the state's health care programs, including the state's Healthy Families program that covers uninsured children. The Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board negotiates and purchases benefits for about 900,000 individuals.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.sacbee.com.