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WellPoint blames big premium hike on demographics

INDIANAPOLIS — Health insurer WellPoint blames a shift in demographics and rising medical costs for its planned 39 percent rate hike for some California customers.

WellPoint Inc. is responding Thursday to a federal inquiry into the steep premium increase planned for some customers who buy individual policies from its Anthem Blue Cross subsidiary.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of a letter from the insurer to the Health and Human Services Secretary.

WellPoint says healthy people are dropping coverage or buying cheaper plans. That has squeezed revenue available to cover claims and resulted in a 2009 loss for the unit.

WellPoint says a minority of customers will see 39 percent increases.