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A Possible Timeline, and Coverage Without Reform

Kent Conrad revealed a possible timeline for health reform, as Obama today called for a bipartisan discussion before moving forward on a vote.

According to budgetary rules, any reconciliation instructions expire once a budget resolution is passed, traditionally an April action. This means Democrats could aim to decide how best to proceed on health reform by the February recess (beginning on Feb. 11), pass a jobs bill shortly after the break, and complete the necessary action for health reform (i.e. a reconciliation bill) by the Easter break. Next week should reveal the process in greater detail.

In the meantime, Anthem Blue Cross has reported that it will raise premium rates for Californians in their individual market (nearly 800,000 lives) by as much as 39% starting March 1, as a result of higher health costs. From the LA Times:

Individual policies are often the only option for those who are uninsured, self-employed or do not receive health coverage through employers. Insurers are free to cherry-pick the healthiest customers in the lightly regulated individual market. They can raise rates at any time as long as they notify the state Department of Insurance and prove that they are spending at least 70% of premiums on medical care. The size of the individual rate increases prompted state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner recently to call for a review of Anthem’s charges.

To avoid a similar fate, Aetna is planning to force up to 650,000 individuals to drop their coverage next year in an effort to improve on a less-than-anticipated profit margin in 2009. Rest assured, the insurer still managed a 13% profit while spending more than $2 million on lobbying last year.