KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Insurers in California, Elsewhere, Propose Steep Rate Hikes

California's insurance commissioner criticized Anthem Blue Cross for raising rates for small businesses but acknowledged he has no authority to block it. Medpage Today looks at double-digit increases in the individual and small group markets nationwide.

Los Angeles Times: California Regulator Scolds Anthem, Praises UnitedHealth On Rates
California's insurance commissioner scolded Anthem Blue Cross for raising rates for small businesses while praising industry rival UnitedHealth Group Inc. for cutting worker premiums. ... But state regulators have no authority to block Anthem's rate increase from taking effect this month. "This is a huge loophole in California law and in the federal Affordable Care Act," [Insurance Commissioner Dave] Jones said (Terhune, 1/8).

San Francisco Chronicle: State Opposes Anthem Rate Increase
California's insurance commissioner on Tuesday called a proposed rate hike by Anthem Blue Cross for small businesses "unreasonable" and accused the health insurer of improperly imposing fees associated with the federal health law. Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said his department's actuaries carefully reviewed the health insurer's plans, which he said would raise rates by nearly 11 percent. The company, he said, overestimated its projected medical costs and how much in services it expects its policyholders to use. Anthem officials disputed Jones' claims (Colliver, 1/8).

Politico Pro: Calif. Insurance Commissioner: Anthem Is Raising Rates Early
Anthem Blue Cross California is already including two 2014 fees for the health care reform law in its 2013 insurance prices, a move California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones says is unlawful. On a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Jones said Anthem wants to raise rates by more than 10 percent for its small-group market and attributed the increase, in small part, to two fees that will hit insurers in 2014: a tax on health insurers and a fee to spread the risk among insurers who have to take on the sickest customers (Haberkorn, 1/8).

In another story about premium increases nationwide -

Medpage Today: Health Insurers Still Requesting Steep Rate Hikes
Although one goal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was to rein in the high cost of health insurance, dozens of health plans continued to implement double-digit rate hikes. For instance, in California, premiums on separate UnitedHealth plans rose 12.3 percent and 14.3 percent, according to the state's Department of Insurance. An Aetna plan covering more than 76,000 people jumped 20.4 percent and another covering 21,000 people shot up nearly 19 percent. Celtic Insurance Company in Ohio requested a 39 percent increase for some of its plans in the state, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). So far, 44 states have programs to review rate increases in their states. For states that don't have such programs, HHS reviews the proposals (Pittman, 1/8).

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