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Jul 23, 2004 - 01:00 AM

Arnold's Anthem

by Jamie Court
Arnold looked like the HMOs' Superhero today when his HMO regulator suddenly blessed the nation's largest health insurance acquisition; Anthem's buyout of Wellpoint, the parent company of Blue Cross of California.

Tipsters in the Department of Managed Health Care say the Gov himself made sure the deal got a rubber stump and, suggesting he is guilty of intervening, the sunshine governor has denied requests under the Public Records Act seeking communications between Wellpoint execs and Arnold's inner circle. Wellpoint and its executives have given $92,400 to Arnold's committees and the company's execs stand to make hundreds of millions of dollars off the deal.

The Department of Managed Health Care's sudden approval came only hours before a scheduled press conference by Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, who today refused to approve the change of ownership for the 10% of Wellpoint's insurance business he oversees. Garamendi said that Anthem's ability to take hundreds of millions of dollars in reserves out of California to pay for executive compensation and other transaction costs was not in the interest of California policyholders.

The acquisition is now in limbo, but no thanks to the Governor who was supposed to stand up for average people. The timing of Arnold's approval today and the lack of demands imposed on Anthem leave little question who is the girlie man when it comes to standing up to special interests.

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