Ask and you shall receive…

Last month, Health Access called upon Commissioner Steve Poizner to extend the actuarial review that the Department of Insurance placed on the infamous Anthem Blue Cross rate increase filings on all insurers.

Today, we thank him for announcing that the Commissioner intends to do just that in the individual market: to have the same independent actuary review the filings of other insurers. Duke Helfand has the LA Times story.

From the Commissioner’s press release:

In order to ensure that health insurers are charging accurate rates to their individual customers, Commissioner Poizner announced today that any rate change filings by top health insurers will undergo an additional level of actuarial analysis as part of the California Department of Insurance’s regulatory review.

“My job as Insurance Commissioner is to ensure that consumers get treated fairly and charged accurate prices,” said Commissioner Poizner. “When we retained an outside actuary to review Anthem Blue Cross’ rate filing, we found that Anthem had attempted to increase its rates by 50 percent more than state law allows. By subjecting insurer rate filings to this additional level of scrutiny, California consumers will know that all major insurers are adhering to the state’s requirement that 70 percent of premiums are spent on medical benefits.”

The top health insurers in the individual market are Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna, Health Net, and Blue Shield and cover approximately 90% of the individual health insurance market.

When these insurers file new rates, their filings will be reviewed by outside actuaries. This review is similar to the review of Anthem Blue Cross conducted by Axene Health Partners (AHP), which uncovered significant errors. Currently, AHP is reviewing filings by Aetna and Blue Shield.

This is not the same as a full rate review, much less authority to approve and disapprove rates. For that, we still need to pass bills like AB2578, Assemblyman Dave Jones’ rate regulation bill. However, this additional scrutiny is a welcome step in the right direction, and just might turn up the errors that were found in Anthem Blue Cross’ filings.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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