- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wellpoint, a key insurer on the new Obamacare marketplace, tempered fears on Wednesday of huge rate increases in 2015, saying the mix and characteristics of members from the health overhaul’s exchanges are exceeding their expectations.

The rosy outlook, outlined in a first-quarter earnings call with investors, could dampen the shock waves Wellpoint sent out in late March, when company officials reportedly said consumers may face “double-digit” rate increases for 2015.

The reports quickly reverberated on Capitol Hill, where House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Republican, challenged reporters to “name names” instead of citing anonymous sources in their questions about skyrocketing rates.

Wellpoint spokeswoman Jill Becher said the earlier reports referenced industry-wide trends at the time, whereas the company’s statements on Wednesday reflected up-to-date enrollment data for their company.

Wellpoint CEO Joseph R. Swedish said the company brought in 400,000 enrollees from the exchanges through Feb. 15, and it anticipated that number to rise to 600,000 once it factored in the results of an enrollment surge in late March and early April.

“We did notice the average age of applicants decreasing the further we got into the open enrollment period, indicating that younger age applicants designed up later in the period,” he said.

Younger enrollees tend to be healthier, keeping premiums in check.

Mr. Swedish said their enrollees selected bronze- or silver-level plans by a “wide margin,” as expected.

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