Just a year after notifying individual policyholders of rate increases of up to 39 percent, Anthem Blue Cross of California has notified individuals that more hikes are on the way, effective May 1.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Alison Heath and her husband will be charged 26 percent more than currently charged, which was already raised 16 percent last year. Heath says their annual premium is expected to be about $17,700.
“I almost feel like I’m a victim of a crime,” said Heath, 55, who doubts she could find alternative coverage because of minor pre-existing conditions. “It’s like I have a gun to my head. I have to pay because I’m not willing to live without insurance.”
Last year, the company made national headlines when it told individual policyholders that it was raising rates as much as 39 percent for certain of its 700,000 customers. After the state’s Department of Insurance asked Anthem to justify the rate increase, the company discovered errors in its calculations and reduced its planned increases.
While the rate increases are alarming to its policyholders, they certainly are not unique among insurers. Recently, Blue Shield of California notified its customers that it planned to increase rates on individual policies by up to 59 percent. Aetna has also notified many of its customers to expect large rate hikes.
Anthem and others claim that the companies lose money on individual policies and that the rate increases were reviewed by actuaries and comply with law. Some customers believe that the companies are trying to raise premiums as much as possible before 2014, when the new health care law kicks in, potentially limiting future increases.
The Department of Insurance recently requested that four insurers, including Anthem and Blue Shield, delay rate increases for a period of 60 days, so that officials had an opportunity to review their proposals. Officials at the department also suggested that another state agency, the Department of Managed Care, had jurisdiction over the individual policies.
When contacted by the Chronicle, officials at that agency said that their authority was limited to simply reviewing proposals, with no authority to approve or deny rate increases.