Three insurers delay rate hikes; Blue Shield still won't wait

Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna and PacifiCare have all agreed to delay their proposed premium increases for 60 days, leaving Blue Shield of California as the only insurer in California to proceed with plans to raise rates, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones had asked Blue Shield to delay imposing rate hikes on its individual policyholders and then made the same request of the three other insurers.

Blue Shield stood by its decision to go forward with a March 1 increase that will raise rates on nearly 200,000 individual policyholders by as much as 59 percent. Blue Shield spokesman Tom Epstein told the Los Angeles Times an independent actuarial review of its rates requested by the company is on track to be completed before March 1. "As we stated previously, if the independent review finds that the rates are not sound, we will hold our members harmless by refunding the difference with interest," he said. "... Even with the proposed rate increases, we expect to lose $20-30 million on individual health insurance in 2011."

Anthem said it was honoring Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones's request to delay its rate increase, averaging 9.8 percent, that was to go into effect April 1 for more than 600,000 individual policyholders. Anthem will delay the rate hike until at least June 1, as will Aetna, which previously announced an increase of 2.8 percent on average. PacifiCare, which planned to raise premiums anywhere from 2.5 percent to 9.1 percent, will delay the increases until April 1, according to the Sacramento Bee.

"I continue to be disappointed by Blue Shield's response," Jones said. "Blue Shield policyholders will not have the benefit of this additional review period to ensure compliance with the law, but I will do what is within my power to determine whether Blue Shield's proposed rates are in compliance with the law and to enforce that law."

To learn more:
- read the San Francisco Chronicle story
- see the Sacramento Bee article
- view the Los Angeles Times piece

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