Santa Monica, CA – Another double-digit rate hike takes effect tomorrow for 730,000 Californians with Anthem Blue Cross health insurance. The increase of up to 26 percent is the third or fourth rate hike in just two years for many Anthem customers, who have seen prices explode and benefits shrink in the last few years, said Consumer Watchdog.
An initiative measure that will appear on the next general election ballot would give California the authority to publicly review rate increases, and reject those that are excessive. Unlike 35 other states, California law allows unreasonable rate increases to take effect.
"For the second time in less than a year, Anthem Blue Cross has imposed outrageous double-digit rate hikes on hundreds of thousands of Californians. California is one of the few states where we don't have the power to protect consumers from unjustified and excessive rate hikes," said Carmen Balber, executive director at Consumer Watchdog.
An analysis conducted in January by the California Public Interest Research Group Education Fund found that Anthem's proposal is unreasonable in its current form and does not provide sufficient information to support its trends and assumptions.
Anthem Blue Cross has a history of unreasonable rate hikes in California. Last month the health insurance company imposed an unreasonable rate hike on more than 250,000 small business customers. According to an analysis by Insurance Commissioner Jones, the "company-wide rates of return on equity have been and remain excessive." Anthem Blue Cross imposed an unreasonable rate hike on 120,000 Californians with individual policies in 2011. The company was able to go ahead with the unjustified increases because California regulators do not have the power to stop them.
Anthem's parent company, Wellpoint, announced a 38 percent profit increase in the 4th quarter of 2012 over the previous year, and $2.7 billion in net profits for 2012.
In California, insurance reform law Proposition 103 regulates auto, home and business insurance rates, and requires insurers to open their books, publicly justify and get approval for rate increases before they take effect. That law was enacted by the voters in 1988 and has saved California drivers $62 billion on their auto insurance premiums. The initiative measure that has qualified for California’s 2014 general election ballot would apply the same rules to health insurance companies.
Consumer Watchdog is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization with offices in Santa Monica, CA and Washington, DC. Find us online at www.ConsumerWatchdog.org