WellPoint CEO Discusses Health Care Costs, Anthem Merger in Sacramento Bee Interview
WellPoint Health Networks CEO Leonard Schaeffer, in a Sacramento Bee interview published Sunday, spoke "[a]gainst the backdrop of litigation and speculation" about increasing standardization through the electronic medical records system, a referendum on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot on an employer-sponsored health care law and the company's proposed $16.5 billion merger with Indianapolis-based Anthem.
Schaeffer, during the interview, said "fix[ing]" electronic health records is the "holy grail" of the health care system and "the key to starting to compare patient outcomes." Schaefer said, "We can influence [hospital costs] by using those electronic medical records as a foundation to compare the cost and quality data for different hospitals and physicians." Schaeffer noted, "People have very strong feelings in opposition to standardization because it cuts across so many passionately held points of view about how to do so many different things."
Schaeffer also spoke about WellPoint's position on SB 2, a law scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2006, that will require employers with 200 or more employees to provide health insurance to workers and their dependents by 2006 or pay into a state fund to provide such coverage (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 10/10). Employers with 50 to 199 employees will have to provide health insurance only to workers by 2007.
Companies with fewer than 20 workers will not have to comply with the law, and the law also will exempt employers with 20 to 49 workers unless the state provides them with tax credits to offset the cost of health coverage. Proposition 72, an initiative on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot, asks residents to vote "yes" to uphold or "no" to repeal SB 2 (California Healthline, 10/12).
Shaeffer said, "We were neutral on SB 2. In terms of the goal, we are all for expanding coverage to the uninsured. But that law gets complicated as you start to implement it. You start getting into things like what level of benefits the employer has to offer employees and whether the state will mandate a level of benefits that makes coverage much more expensive over time."
WellPoint executives are not permitted to speak about Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi's (D) decision to block part of the Anthem merger because it is part of current court proceedings, the Bee reports. However, Schaeffer said that the "merger has no impact on our market share in California. The merger is not about market share here. It's about reducing administrative costs and introducing a greater range of insurance products to give more choices to consumers." Schaeffer added that the company is "looking at all the alternatives" (Sacramento Bee, 10/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.