Health Inc.

California Approves Anthem Blue Cross Rate Hike

Hey, health insurers, you can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes (and fix the math in your application) you might just find you get approval for a slightly smaller rate hike after all.

California map

Anthem's rates for individual policies in California are going up, but not as much as the company wanted. iStockphoto.com hide caption

itoggle caption iStockphoto.com

In California, Anthem Blue Cross just got the go-ahead from the state for a rate hike averaging 14 percent on individual health policies starting Oct. 1. Some policies may cost as much as 20 percent more, but that's still a smaller bite than Anthem had first sought.

Earlier this year, the for-profit insurer asked California's Department of Insurance for the OK to charge 39 percent more for individual policies. The requested rate change quickly became a key talking point in the administration's push for passage of health overhaul.

California's head insurance honcho hired actuaries to comb through the Anthem application and found a bunch of errors that undermined the insurer's case for the big jump in premiums. Anthem, a unit of insurance giant WellPoint, withdrew the application and started over.

Now, the insurance regulators say Anthem got the math right and approved the hikes because at least 70 percent of premiums will go toward payment for medical care.

By holding Anthem's feet to the fire, California insurance regulators say they've saved consumers $184 million, the Los Angeles Times reported. The company figures the amount is south of $150 million.

"These savings were a clear benefit to Blue Cross' policyholders," said Deputy Insurance Commissioner Byron Tucker, according to the Times.

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