In a pre-emptive strike against what are expected to be lower-than-expected health plan rates for 2015, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones took to the bully pulpit Tuesday to rail against rate hikes in 2014 as well as rally support for a rate regulation initiative on the November ballot.
Average rate increases this year were between 22 and 88 percent, after considering variation for geographic location and age, Jones said in morning news conference. His office launched a study after consumers complained about rate hikes in 2014, he said.
Rate hikes were masked for most of the people who bought insurance through Covered California because they qualified for government subsidies, Jones added, “But for Californians whose incomes were not low enough there was likely a major rate increase.”
A 25-year-old Sacramento resident who bought a silver plan in 2014, for example, is paying 36 percent more than similar coverage last year, he said.
“Health insurers don’t have to justify their rates,” Jones added. “That’s why I continue to argue that California needs insurance rate regulation.” Proposition 45 would give the state insurance commissioner authority to demand rate changes, not just talk about them.
The information the Jones released “seems to be as outdated and misleading as the initiative he is promoting,” countered Robin Swanson, a spokeswoman for the No on Proposition 45 campaign.
Release of the data comes two days before Covered California is scheduled to announce proposed rates for 2015 — and Jones predicts lower-than-expected rate increases due to the initiative.
“With Proposition 45 on the ballot, there is no question in my mind that health insurers and HMOs will not be filing very aggressive rate increases for 2015 precisely because if they did, there’d be a huge public outcry,” he said.
Covered California rates for next year will be announced Thursday, spokeswoman Anne Gonzales said.