Assembly committee considers bill to reject medical insurance rate hikes

After Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield tried to increase their rates for some health policyholders by as much as 59 percent, a Beverly Hills Assemblyman has introduced a bill that would let the California insurance commissioner limit health insurance premium hikes.
After Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield tried to increase their rates for some health policyholders by as much as 59 percent, a Beverly Hills Assemblyman has introduced a bill that would let the California insurance commissioner limit health insurance premium hikes. David McNew/Getty Images

A Southern California lawmaker is trying to line up support in the state legislature for a bill to crack down on excessive rate hikes for medical insurance plans.

This year, Blue Shield proposed hiking medical premiums for individual policyholders by as much as 59 percent. Last year, Anthem Blue Cross proposed similar rate increases for some medical plans. In the face of public protest, both insurance companies delayed the increases.

“Those increases were proposed and then it was determined that they couldn’t be justified,” says Assemblyman Mike Feuer. “And then California was left to rely on the good graces of a health insurance company to say, ‘You know, I guess we’ll take it back. We’ll dial this increase down’.”

Feuer, a Beverly Hills Democrat, says Californians need better protection from sudden and hefty premium hikes. He has introduced a bill that would empower California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones to review medical insurance rate hikes – and reject rate hikes that he decides are too high.

The commissioner already has the power to review and reject bumps to auto, property and casualty insurance. Medical insurance companies say they need to be able to raise premiums, sometimes by a lot, to offset rapidly increasing costs of medical care.

The Assembly Health Committee is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to limit medical premium hikes.

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