LOS ANGELES — Blue Shield of California is seeking another round of rate hikes that would mean a cumulative increase averaging over 30 percent over a five-month span for nearly 200,000 policy holders, reports Wednesday said.
The latest hike was set to take effect March 1 pending approval from California regulators, to go with other increases that took place Oct. 1 and Jan. 1, the Los Angeles Times reported.
About 193,000 policyholders would see increases averaging 30 percent to 35 percent if the new increase is approved.
The news astounded many policy holders who are guaranteed the same rate for a year and received notice of all three increases at once.
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Tens of thousands of policy holders will see their rates go up more than 50 percent in the same span.They include Michael Fraser, 53, a freelance advertising writer from San Diego, who recently learned his bill would climb from $271 to $431 — an increase of 59 percent.
"When I tell people, their jaws drop and their eyes bug out," said Fraser, 53, a freelance advertising writer. "The amount is stunning."
The San Francisco-based insurer blames the new rates on rising health care costs.
"We raise rates only when absolutely necessary to pay the accelerating cost of medical care for our members," the company told customers last month.
New California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones can only block the hike under a narrow set of criteria.
He said the growing bills show that the legislature should give his office the ability to regulate health insurance the way it does auto insurance.
"Blue Shield's increases pose the same problem posed by Anthem Blue Cross last year and other health insurers as well," Jones said in an interview. "My hope would be that Blue Shield would re-examine these rate hikes."