Anthem Blue Cross delays health insurance rate hike, again
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Thousands of Anthem Blue Cross policyholders who faced steep rate hikes on May 1 will get at least a temporary reprieve, as California’s largest for-profit health insurer extends a two-month postponement prompted by public outrage over the proposed increases.
But there was no word from the insurance company how long this new delay will be.
Anxious policyholders have been waiting to hear from the Woodland Hills company about a jump in their premiums of as much as 39%. A spokeswoman for Anthem’s parent, WellPoint Inc., said this week that the insurer’s 800,000 California members who buy individual policies will see no difference in their bills at this point.
“They should not experience a rate change beginning May 1st,” said Kristin Binns. “Members will receive adequate notification of any rate change. Until they receive information indicating otherwise, rates remain unchanged.”
State law requires insurers to notify policyholders 30 days before altering rates, meaning Anthem could not impose higher premiums until the end of the May at the earliest.
Anthem customers welcomed the news.
“The people have won one here,” said Doug Rosen, 60, whose individual policy was set to rise 27%.
The Calabasas resident said he did not object to rates going up at roughly the rate of inflation, perhaps 3% to 5%. “If they want a rate increase,” he said, “let them have one that is reasonable.”
In January, Anthem notified many customers with individual policies that rates would rise on March 1. Amid a vocal public backlash, however, Anthem postponed the hikes for two months while an outside actuary, appointed by California’s insurance commissioner, reviewed the insurer’s spending practices.
The actuary, Axene Health Partners, will determine whether Anthem meets a state requirement to spend at least 70% of premiums on medical claims. Anthem and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner -- who is in a tough race for the Republican nomination for governor -- have both said that they want to see the Axene report, due any day, before deciding whether the rate hikes will go forward.
“We are still awaiting results from the third party review to determine next steps,” Binns said.
-- Duke Helfand