|By Mark Glover, The Sacramento Bee|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Anthem fired back, saying the insurance commissioner's math and methodology were flawed.
It was the latest skirmish amid a national battle as health insurance companies seek double-digit percentage rate increases, citing increasing costs even as they scramble to come to terms with the federal Affordable Care Act. In return, consumer advocates contend insurers are raking in large profits.
During his Tuesday press conference, Jones said Anthem small-business policyholders in
Jones said Anthem proceeded with the increase despite evidence of a "21 percent return on equity" and his personal appeal to Anthem to hold the line. He said Anthem was determined to go ahead "while small businesses are struggling to keep their doors open."
Ng said the average rate increase for 52,400 members is actually 6.5 percent. Including benefit changes, the increase is about 7.5 percent, with an average increase of 12.1 percent over 24 months.
Ng said the
Jones also called for Anthem and other in-state insurers not to charge fees in 2013 that they are not obligated to pay under Affordable Care Act provisions until 2014. Jones said he believes collecting fees in 2013 is "unlawful" and indicated that he is considering possible legal options if such fees are collected this year.
Ng disputed that as well, saying Anthem and other insurers (in
At the heart of the issue, Ng said, is the "economic reality faced throughout the entire industry as health care costs continue to escalate faster than our state's economy as a whole."
For Jones, the issue is his lack of regulatory authority to reject rate increases he considers excessive. Insurance commissioners in 37 other states have that authority, or the power to roll back rates.
A measure that has qualified for the
As things are now, Jones said, insurers are free "to set whatever rates they want ... and that's what they do."
Even though the Obama administration's goal was to curb health insurance rates nationwide, insurers are seeking double-digit percentage rate increases, citing an aging population and other factors driving up costs. Analysts said small businesses are particularly vulnerable to higher rates.
Still, consumer advocates weighed in Tuesday, saying that some form of rate control was needed.
"Health insurance rates have risen five times greater than the rate of inflation over the last decade, by 153 percent," said
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