Press ReleasesFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jul 27, 2004
CONTACT: Jerry Flanagan - 310-392-0522 x319
Anthem/WellPoint Plans to Sue Garamendi Over Blocked Merger Called "Desperate"
WellPoint Subsidiary Contributed $250K to Initiative to Block Consumer Lawsuits
In a conference call to discuss its second quarter earnings today, Anthem Inc. announced plans to file a lawsuit later this week against California Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi for blocking part of its planned buyout of WellPoint Health Networks. The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) called Commissioner Garamendi's decision to block the merger on the grounds that it would cost patients $4 billion or more, "the right prescription for California patients."
Blue Cross of California, WellPoint's most profitable subsidiary, recently contributed $250,000 to the Proposition 64 initiative campaign -- a November ballot measure aimed at removing an individual consumer's right to sue under the state's Unfair Business Competition statute. Blue Cross has been sued at least four times under the consumer protection law that Proposition 64 would gut, for unfair practices including deceptive increases of patient premiums and charges of underpaying hospitals and doctors.
"It is the height of hypocrisy for a company filing a lawsuit against a regulator operating well within his legal authority to spend a quarter of a million of our premium dollars to take away a patients right to sue," said Jerry Flanagan of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR).
"Anthem's and WellPoint's decision to sue is a desperate attempt to buy time while company executives weigh their diminishing options," said Jerry Flanagan. "Garamendi acted on firm legal ground to deny this merger because $600 million in golden parachutes for company executives and $3.4 billion in debt payments will cost patients too much."
The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights has also questioned why Blue Cross of California has not paid an estimated $500 million in gross premium taxes as required by Article XIII, Section 28 of the California Constitution. Blue Cross of California does pay a much lower tax on its overall net income but the company has avoided paying the gross premium tax even though every other similarly situated for-profit company that sells PPO products in the state pays the higher tax. The differential between the net income tax Blue Cross of California has been paying and the gross premium tax the company should have been paying was at least $50-60 million in 2003. Click here to read FTCR's most recent analysis of Blue Cross of California's unpaid gross premium tax.
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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is a non-profit and non-partisan consumer advocacy organization. For more information, visit us on the web at www.consumerwatchdog.org
To learn about Proposition 64, please visit www.NoOnProp64.org