Calif. insurance chief criticizes Anthem rate hike
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said Tuesday that Anthem Blue Cross' proposed rate hike for some of its small-group members is unreasonable, but the insurer says the increase reflects the rising cost of health care.
Jones said that, unlike insurance regulators in many other states, he has no authority to stop the rate increases, which will take effect this month. Anthem's increase will average 10.6 percent a year, and the two-year increase could be as high as 19.4 percent for some customers, he said.
"My authority is limited to reviewing the rates that are filed. The health insurers can set whatever rates they want — and they do exactly that," Jones said at a news conference.
Anthem spokesman Darrel Ng disputed Jones' figures, saying the annual increase is closer to 7.5 percent when adjusting for benefit changes. The rate hikes are comparable to those sought by the company's competitors, he said.
"The reality is that cost increases are not unique to Anthem Blue Cross, but reflect the realities of the health care market in general," Ng said.
The rate hike initially will affect 52,000 of the 250,000 people in California who participate in Anthem's insurance policies for small businesses.