Some California health insurers are proposing to raise small-business rates more than 10% next month, drawing scrutiny from state regulators.
Aetna Inc., which drew the ire of state insurance officials for a rate hike earlier this year, wants to increase premiums 10% on average, and as high as 24% for some employers. Anthem Blue Cross, the state’s largest for-profit insurer and a unit of WellPoint Inc., has proposed boosting rates 13%. Blue Shield of California is looking to charge some small employers up to 6% more.
Byron Tucker, a spokesman for the state Department of Insurance, said the agency is having discussions with the three companies about whether the proposed rate hikes are too high. Separately, the California Department of Managed Health Care said it is reviewing other proposed rate increases going into effect in July or August. But no matter what their decision is, neither agency has the power to deny increases. They can only urge the companies to cut rates and publicly criticize them if they don’t.
In April, insurance department officials objected to other small-business rate hikes as high as 21% by Aetna and called them “excessive.” But Aetna went ahead with the higher charges.