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Published: Tuesday, 7/29/2014

Report: Health premiums rose significantly in 2014

As he pushes for more authority, insurance commissioner says health premium rates are rising

ASSOCIATED PRESS

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s insurance commissioner released a report today showing the cost of health care premiums increased significantly this year, as he pushes for more authority to regulate those costs.

California’s four largest insurers raised premiums for popular plans from at least 22 percent to as much as 88 percent between 2013 and 2014, depending on factors such as age and location, according to the annual report released by Commissioner Dave Jones, a Democrat first elected in 2010.

Earlier this year, thousands of people voiced complaints that new rates would be high, even though the state said 2014 rates would be lower than expected.

The report also came as Jones campaigns for Proposition 45, a November ballot measure that would give his office the power to stop rate increases.

Health insurers say Jones’ analysis of rates is faulty because the plans offered through the state marketplace in 2014 are different under the federal health law. They include subsidies for low-income Californians that reduce the premiums and must cover specific treatments such as maternity care and mental health services.

Jones says many of the requirements were already in place in California, and he pointed to a lack of competition in the marketplace as a reason for price increases.

Opponents also object to provisions allowing third party attorneys to contest rates and win payouts if they prevail.

“We are going to continue to see rates going up simply because there is no authority to reject excessive rates, there is no requirement to require justifying their rates,” Jones said.

Covered California, the state health insurance marketplace, will announce this week which plans will be offered on the exchange and their prices.

Robin Swanson, a spokeswoman for Proposition 45 opponents, says the new report is “as outdated and misleading as the ballot initiative” because of the new price figures.

Jones says he expects health insurers to keep rate increases lower this year to prevent a voter backlash in November.



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