Another health insurance provider wants to raise rates because of new healthcare laws

Posted on January 6, 2011

Blue Shield of California

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I thought that passing the massive health care reform bill, a.k.a. “Obamacare,” was supposed to keep insurance rates down.  It looks like….not so much:

Another big California health insurer has stunned individual policyholders with huge rate increases — this time it’s Blue Shield of California seeking cumulative hikes of as much as 59% for tens of thousands of customers March 1.

Blue Shield’s action comes less than a year after Anthem Blue Cross tried and failed to raise rates as much as 39% for about 700,000 California customers.

San Francisco-based Blue Shield said the increases were the result of fast-rising healthcare costs and other expenses resulting from new healthcare laws. (emphasis mine)

“We raise rates only when absolutely necessary to pay the accelerating cost of medical care for our members,” the nonprofit insurer told customers last month.

Blue Shield said the cost of health coverage was being driven up by large hospital expenses, doctors’ bills and prescription drug prices. Blue Shield’s Epstein said other factors also contributed to the three increases in five months.

Epstein said Blue Shield raised rates again Jan. 1 to pay for changes under the national healthcare overhaul and a new state law that bars insurers from charging women more than men. (Some policyholders will pay less under the state gender law, while others will pay more.)

Blue Shield is a non-profit insurer and they still are looking to raise rates even more than Anthem Blue Cross tried last year.   Ironically, the article explains that Anthem’s attempt to raise rates last year caused Obamacare to garner the support it did:

Anthem’s attempt to raise rates by up to 39% led to national outrage and helped President Obama marshal support for his healthcare overhaul. The insurer was ultimately forced to back down, accepting maximum rate hikes of 20%.

Expect the same outcry from the public and calls for even MORE regulation and government control.   But even those who are under a separate regulated plan are not immune to rate increases as well:

Not included in the rate increases are 78,000 Blue Shield individual policyholders whose insurance is regulated by a second state agency, the Department of Managed Health Care. Those customers have seen two rate increases since October that together average 37%, Epstein said.

Adding insult to injury, it seems that even after Anthem settled for a lower rate hike last year and Obamacare was signed into law, the insurance premium costs for those customers are not going down.  Anthem is looking to raise rates again by almost 10% for individuals starting April 1. 

With all the hoopla about how our new healthcare law was going to keep costs down, it appears to be doing the exact opposite and driving costs up.