Horsford seeks probe of Nevada insurer

WASHINGTON — Rep. Steven Horsford on Wednesday urged an investigation of Anthem BlueCross BlueShield, saying the Nevada firm might be misleading customers about their options under the Affordable Care Act.

The Nevada Democrat asked state Insurance Commissioner Scott Kipper to look into enrollment letters the firm sent to customers this fall. He noted they mentioned only at the bottom, below the company president’s signature, that policyholders might qualify for subsidies and lower-cost coverage through the new Nevada health exchange.

“If I had another option other than to just renew with you, and you failed to tell me that, or if you only told me that in a footnote in a letter that I had an option under the exchange, that is not a level of transparency,” Horsford said.

“I want to be clear here,” he said. “I don’t feel sorry for the insurance companies. They are going to come out just fine. We have in this case a company that their CEOs and executives continue to make record profits and huge bonuses at the expense of middle-class families that are trying desperately to maneuver this new health care law.”

Anthem is the second-largest health insurer in Nevada, with 250,000 customers. Besides its private plans, it is offering a policy under the state exchange.

Horsford sent Kipper the template for an Anthem renewal letter distributed to about 9,000 customers whose policies were being continued under a grandfather clause in the Affordable Care Act.

Another was sent to about 11,000 policyholders whose policies were not going to be renewed because they failed to meet new benefit standards.

Each urges customers to remain with an Anthem product.

Horsford said both appeared deceptive, because the option of the health insurance marketplace in Nevada, called NevadaHealthLink.com, is discussed only below the signature of Anthem President Mike Murphy.

“Put simply, these letters are misleading and impair the ability of Nevadans to make informed decisions about their health insurance.” Horsford said in a letter to the insurance commissioner.

In response to Horsford queries, Anthem made public a third letter that discussed the Nevada exchange prominently. Officials said that letter was sent to customers who did not respond to the first notice that their policy would no longer be continued.

Anthem spokeswoman Joyzelle Davis said information about the Nevada exchange in the two initial letters was in a box, in a bold-faced sentence headlined by the word “IMPORTANT” in capital letters. In two subsequent paragraphs customers are urged to examine Anthem plans offered through the state marketplace and gives its Web address.

“Anthem is strongly committed to Nevada Health Link,” the company said in a statement. “We are one of only two insurers selling products on the exchange throughout the entire state of Nevada, and we’ve made a huge investment to prepare our products and market them for the exchange.

“It is our goal to communicate with members about all of their options so they can make an informed decision. We’ve partnered with local agents, online channels and retail locations to expand information and access.”

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.