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March 2nd, 2010 by Temple City Tribune
Following Anthem Blue Cross’s declaration in an Assembly Health Committee hearing that the insurance company might raise premiums more frequently than the traditional once-yearly increases, Assembly member Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) announced Assembly Bill 2042, legislation that would prohibit health insurers from raising rates more than once per year.
“If health insurers begin to raise their rates multiple times per year when their subscribers aren’t expecting an increase, cash-strapped families could be forced to give up their coverage,” said Feuer. “This bill ensures that insurance companies won’t be allowed to spring unexpected rate hikes on their customers.”
Feuer announced the bill after the Assembly Health Committee held an oversight hearing examining the proposed rate increases of several health insurers. Earlier this year, Anthem informed its individual plan members not covered by employer-based or group policies that their monthly premiums would increase by as much as 39 percent on March 1, 2010. The company later agreed to hold off on the rate hike, which could affect as many as 800,000 individual policyholders in California, until May 1, 2010. Since the first of the year, several other health insurers have raised their subscribers’ premium rates in the 30 to 40 percent range.
“California families need health reform at both the state and federal level, including restrictions on the frequency of these skyrocketing health insurance rate hikes. We’ve seen big increases time again and again, and now some health insurers want to hike rates more than once a year.” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “Enough is enough. Given the economic times, we can’t let insurers jack up health premiums whenever they feel like it.”
On the heels of Anthem’s huge rake hike, Assemblymember Dave Jones (D-Sacramento) and Feuer introduced a far-reaching plan to establish a permanent rate review and approval process. Under AB 2578, health plans and insurers would be required to receive approval from the state for any rate increase charged to subscribers.