Archive for Thursday, June 6, 2002

Anthem: Politics fueled decision

June 6, 2002


— Attorneys for Anthem Insurance Cos. are saying politics played a part in State Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Sebelius' rejection of the company's acquisition of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas.

Sebelius, a Democratic candidate for governor, denied the allegation.

Anthem has appealed Sebelius' decision to Shawnee County District Judge Terry Bullock, who is expected to rule on the matter within the next week or two.

Sebelius nixed the Anthem-Blue Cross deal Feb. 11, saying it would have hurt policyholders because Anthem would have driven up insurance premiums to satisfy its stockholders.

Anthem is one of the largest health insurance companies in the nation. Blue Cross of Kansas is the largest health insurer in Kansas.

The proposal was the subject of a series of public hearings across the state and several days of hearings in Topeka.

In its appeal, Anthem said Sebelius had gone beyond her authority in drawing conclusions about what Anthem's future rates might be.

In one brief, Anthem said Sebelius had conducted the public hearings to "gauge public opinion." Another Anthem legal brief said Sebelius' decision should be reversed because she had made a "political rather than a legal decision in relation to the law and facts."

Attorneys representing Sebelius and the Insurance Department said Anthem was trying to vilify Sebelius.

"She took her responsibility seriously and gave careful consideration to petitioners' request to approve the proposed acquisition," they wrote in legal briefs.

Nicole Corcoran-Basso, a spokeswoman for Sebelius, said politics had nothing to do with Sebelius' decision in the case.

"She weighed the evidence and made a determination. It was the right decision," Corcoran-Basso said.

During the Anthem-Blue Cross proceedings, it was widely known that Sebelius was going to run for governor. She announced she was running two weeks after she rejected Anthem's proposal.

In campaign speeches, Sebelius has cited her decision in the Anthem-Blue Cross as an example of her willingness to make tough decisions.

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