Jones Asks Blue Shield to Delay Rate Hikes

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones today called on Blue Shield of California to delay its implementation of a new round of substantial individual health insurance premium increases that would impact tens of thousands of California policyholders. In some instances, consumers would see their health insurance rates skyrocket by up to 59 percent.

“I find it stunning that Blue Shield would seek to impose such massive premium increases on policyholders during these troubling economic times,” Commissioner Jones said. “These premium increases will impose significant financial burdens on struggling families and, in some cases, will lead to the loss of health care coverage altogether.”

Commissioner Jones also sent a letter calling on Blue Shield to refrain from moving forward with its rate increase for at least 60 days beyond the insurer’s proposed March 1, 2011 effective date. Under current California law, the Insurance Commissioner does not have the authority to reject excessive premium increases; however, by asking Blue Shield for a delay in the implementation of its plan, the Commissioner will have the opportunity to ensure that all proposed increases have been thoroughly reviewed.

“Many Californians will no doubt be surprised to learn that the Insurance Commissioner does not have the legal authority to reject excessive health insurance premium increases,” Commissioner Jones said. “I have fought hard to give the Insurance Commissioner this authority for the last six years. I have authored strong legislation to give the Insurance Commissioner the authority to reject excessive premium increases, only to see it defeated in the Legislature by conservative legislators. I will continue to fight to pass this legislation.”

Last June, former Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner initiated a review of Anthem Blue Cross's rates after the insurer announced plans to for a 59 percent increase. Ultimately, the insurer canceled the proposed increase in the face of the commissioner's review and broad public criticism that ranged from policyholders and public officials including President Barack Obama.