Anthem Blue Cross of California will delay any premium rate increases on individual health plans until May 1, pending an independent actuary's review.
California Blues plan agrees to postpone rate increases
The insurer, a subsidiary of Indianapolis-based WellPoint, has come under fire from HHS, members of Congress and consumer groups in recent weeks for its decision to raise rates on individual plans by up to 39%.
“I'm pleased by Anthem Blue Cross' decision to delay their rate increases for two months to allow independent actuaries hired by the California Department of Insurance to closely scrutinize their 2010 rates,” said California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, in a statement. “We have instructed the actuaries to review the rates with a fine-tooth comb to ensure they comply with state law that requires that 70 cents of every dollar in premiums is spent on medical benefits.”
The actuarial firm Axene Health Partners will conduct the rate review, expected to be completed by mid-April, according to Poizner, who asked for the rate increase delay on Feb. 8.
In a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last week, Anthem Blue Cross of California blamed the rate increase on the recession, an aging population and rising medical costs.
“We welcome the regulatory review and are confident that our rates reflect anticipated medical costs,” Brian Sassi, president and CEO of the consumer business unit of WellPoint, said in a statement.
In a statement after the agreement was announced, Sebelius said: “While a two-month delay offers some temporary relief, what California families need is long-term health insurance security, so that they don't face sharply higher prices or fewer benefits. This rate increase underscores the urgency of passing real health insurance reform.”
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