Health care: California sees 15 percent rate hike

Health care insurance premiums slated to rise for 150,000 Californians. Rise 'not unreasonable,' state health care department says.

Ann Heisenfelt/AP/File
Angela Braly, president and chief executive officer of WellPoint, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 24, 2010, before the House Oversight and Investigations subcommittee after its company, Anthem Blue Cross, raised health care insurance premiums for some California customers last year. This year, it's raising premiums by nearly 15 percent for 150,000 Californians.

Some Anthem Blue Cross policyholders in California are facing rate hikes that will average almost 15 percent — but they're not the same policyholders who saw rates hiked an average of 25 percent last year, according to the company.

The hikes aren't unique to Anthem either, according to a statement Thursday from Kristin Binns, a spokeswoman for Anthem's parent company, Indianapolis-based Wellpoint, Inc.

Instead, they "represent an economic reality throughout the entire industry and reflect the fact that health care costs continue to escalate faster than the growth of premiums," said Binns.

According to filings with the state's Department of Managed Health Care, the hike will affect more than 150,000 policyholders who buy insurance from the state's largest insurer.

The regulator's spokeswoman Lynne Randolph says the hikes were vetted by an independent actuary to ensure their compliance with law, including federal standards that 80 percent of all premiums be spent on medical care.

The actuary found that Anthem's latest increase "was not unreasonable or unjustified and therefore, the DMHC does not have any additional authority to block it at this time," said Randolph in a statement.

The latest hike is slated to take effect May 1.

Neither the insurer nor the regulator could immediately provide information on what the highest rate increases will be for policyholders.

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