Calif. Health Insurance Watchdog Targets Industry

Friday, 14 Jan 2011 06:30 PM

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Providers of health coverage in California won’t get much sympathy from the state’s new Democratic insurance commissioner, Dave Jones, but they may not need much since Jones can only badger, not force, them to reconsider what they charge policyholders, the Wall Street Journal reports.

In his first days on the job, Jones already has asked four large insurers to delay planned premium increases including a 59 percent rate hike by Blue Shield of California.

“We have a long history in California of 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent, 40 percent rate hikes,” he said. “This is just business as usual.”

Jones is a longtime insurance industry critic and former legal-aid lawyer who, as a Democratic state assemblyman, wrote a bill to give the office he now occupies the power to reject rate increases. The bill failed, but could come back around for another vote.

California insurers say healthcare costs are rising faster than rate increases and residents caught up in the recession have dropped health insurance to cut living expenses, leaving insurers with fewer healthy policyholders and more sick people to cover.

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