Commissioner Dave Jones,
Thank you for your strong and consistent efforts to regulate health insurance rate increases; they were described in the New York Times on Jan. 5 and in the Fresno Bee on Jan. 10. Apparently, existing California laws are worded such that they prevent effective regulation of health insurance rate increases.
So despite a major goal of the Affordable Care Act to require oversight of rate increases over 10 percent, health care costs will continue to escalate. Patients will lose out while business prospers. The health insurance lobby has thwarted reform and previous bills were killed in the Senate. Your plan now is to bring it to vote in a ballot initiative in November 2014.
It is unfortunate that California, which is often ahead of the nation in public service, is in the minority in ability to regulate health insurance premiums. The majority of states (37) have effective regulation; New York, one of the 37 states, has limited rate increase to less than 10 percent. In California, we are facing up to 26 percent increases in rates with no power to contest this.
This burden will fall on those who can’t negotiate: small businesses and individual purchasers. More importantly, lives will be lost. The Commonwealth Fund, Aug. 12, 2012, reported preventable deaths declined considerably less in U.S. vs. France, Germany or Britain. The group that lagged the most were Americans under age 65, a group not eligible for Medicare.
Will your office release the evaluations of rate increases? You related you are able to evaluate claims although you do not have the power to deny unreasonable rate increases. We, as consumers, may be able to vote with our health care dollars before we vote in polls in 2014.
What more can we do to facilitate your efforts on our behalf?
Mary M. Zhu