Patt Morrison for December 21, 2010

Regulating through public shame, government struggles to stop insurance rate increases

Just as the healthcare reform bill was being signed into law, California-based insurance company Anthem-Blue Cross shocked its customers by announcing its intentions to increase rates by as much as 39%. Because of an accounting error caught by the California insurance commissioner’s office Anthem was eventually forced to lower its increase to 15 – 20%, but nonetheless both state and federal regulators were relatively powerless to stop Anthem from dramatically jacking up rates. This lack of power was promised to be rectified once the healthcare reform law was put into place. Today the Obama Administration announced its rules governing insurance rate increases and while the government will force insurance companies to justify higher rates there is little in the way of new powers given to the states to stop them from happening. One analyst characterized the new rules as “regulation by public shame” as the best the government can do is to embarrass an insurance company into lowering its higher premiums. Is this enough to protect consumers?

Guests:

Jamie Court, President, Consumer Watchdog

Kavita K. Patel, adjunct assistant clinical professor at UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine


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