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Blue Cross Claim That 39% Premium Hikes Due Only to 'Escalating Cost of Health Care' Trigger Calls for Regulation of Rates
Date:2/9/2010

Consumer Watchdog Also Warns Against Insurer-favored 'Cost Solution': Selling Policies That Amount To 'A Cardboard Box to Replace Our Apartment"

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Blue Cross has opened an opportunity for lawmakers and regulators with its premium hikes of up to 39% in California, said Consumer Watchdog. In the face of questions from the White House and an investigation by California's insurance commissioner, federal and state lawmakers should act to regulate health insurance premiums and force insurers to defend every increase.

In recent letters to policyholders announcing yearly premium hikes of up to 39% and perhaps higher, Anthem Blue Cross of California says it is "necessary to adjust our rates to cover the escalating cost of health care." Consumer Watchdog, noting that a 39% increase is 1,500% above the rate of consumer inflation, said the insurer was simply gouging policyholders to raise profits in the face of a sinking customer base.

"Insurers are reaping profits like it's 2007 while their policyholders continue to lose income, savings and security," said Jerry Flanagan, health policy director of Consumer Watchdog. "The companies need to be brought under control, but instead they are lobbying to be allowed to sell so-called national policies that cut benefits and evade state regulation. That's like offering to rent us a cardboard box when we can no longer afford an apartment."

The California Blue Cross unit is the current focus of anger at insurers, drawing protests from the federal Department of Health and Human Services, from President Obama himself and the state Insurance Commissioner. But it is not an isolated incident. Small businesses nationwide received n
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SOURCE Consumer Watchdog
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