New Anthem Blue Cross 20% Rate Hike Will Be Just One of Many Until California Enacts Rate Regulation, Says Consumer Group

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Santa Monica, CA – Anthem Blue Cross has reportedly imposed another 20% premium increase on its individual policyholders in California.  The latest increase comes on the heels of last year's 39% rate hike request by Anthem that was later reduced by about half after the California Department of Insurance found major mathematical errors in the company's plan.  The nonprofit Consumer Watchdog has received several recent complaints from Anthem policyholders facing 20%+ rate hikes and the consumer group said this new rate hike is likely one of a series of increases policyholders can expect in the coming year.
According to today’s San Francisco Chronicle, the Department of Managed Health Care has noted that there is little state regulators can do about the rate hike, as health insurance premiums are not regulated in California.  Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D –Los Angeles) has introduced AB 52, which would authorize state regulators to block insurance companies from imposing excessive rate increases.
"Californians will face these rate hikes year after year until we have a law giving state regulators the power to hold insurers accountable," said Consumer Watchdog Executive Director Doug Heller.  "Anthem Blue Cross and the other health insurers are acting like Enron, charging whatever they want because they can."
2010 Profits Almost $2.9 Billion, Up 13% Over 2009
Wellpoint, the parent company of Anthem Blue Cross, reported a $2.887 billion profit in 2010, according to a report released today by Health Care for America Now (HCAN).  The massive profit increase – 13% over Wellpoint's 2009 profit – provides further evidence that the company's repeated rate hikes are driven by greed rather than real cost increases, as Anthem claims. With medical costs rising only by single digits in recent years, Anthem's cumulative 40%-plus hike in less than a year appears indefensible, said Consumer Watchdog.
"Insurance company greed is driving up health insurance premiums and lawmakers need to rein in these insurers," said Heller.

AB 52 would give the Insurance Commissioner the power to regulate health insurance rates and reject excessive increases.  The bill would enact rules similar to Proposition 103, which requires the Insurance Commissioner to regulate auto insurance rates.  Under those rules California motorists have saved more than $62 billion on their auto coverage over the past two decades, according to a 2008 report by the Consumer Federation of America.

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Consumer Watchdog is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with offices in California and Washington, D.C.

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