Consumer advocates called on California officials to investigate double-digit rate increases by Blue Cross of California to ensure that the company is not violating financial commitments it made last year. Blue Cross was a unit of WellPoint Health Networks, which merged in November 2004 with Anthem to create the nation's largest health insurer. California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi approved the merger only after the companies agreed that an estimated $265 million in executive bonuses and $4 billion in merger-related costs would not be passed on to consumers in the form of higher premiums or benefit reductions. This week the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, which opposed the merger, sent letters to Garamendi and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger profiling Blue Cross members who have received "unprecedented" rate increases of 20% to 50% this year. At deadline, Blue Cross officials had not returned phone calls seeking comment. -- by Laura B. Benko
Advocates question Calif. Blues' premium increases
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