California Health Insurance Premiums Rise Up to 88% in 2014

Jul 29, 2014 7:09 pm ET

(Updates with comment from opponents in last paragraph.)

July 29 (Bloomberg) -- Health-care insurance premiums for individuals in California rose between 22 percent and 88 percent in 2014 from last year, even after the federal health-care overhaul, the state’s insurance commissioner said.

The rate increases, with variation for geography and age, were masked by federal subsidies that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provides to 88 percent of the 1.4 million Californians who purchased health care through the state’s exchange, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said.

Jones, a Democrat, is pushing a statewide ballot measure for November known as Proposition 45 that would give him regulatory say on proposed premium increases. The measure is opposed by insurance companies, which have said that it would actually cause rates to rise while harming the quality of care.

“Unless Proposition 45 is passed or some other law is enacted to provide health-insurance rate regulation and the requirement that health insurers and HMOs justify their rates, we are going to continue to see dramatic year-over-year increases,” Jones said in a telephone briefing with reporters.

The California health-care insurance exchange, called Covered California, is expected to announce its 2015 rates later this week. Jones said he expects those increases to be “modest at best” because insurance companies will want to avoid providing voters reason to approve Proposition 45.

“The insurance commissioner is using this misleading report to promote a ballot measure that would give him vast new powers over health care decisions,” said Robin Swanson, a spokeswoman for the campaign against the initiative, Californians Against Higher Health Care Costs. “Our coalition of doctors, nurses, labor unions and health care providers opposing the measure thinks that giving one politician the power to override decisions made by the state’s successful health exchange is the wrong approach to controlling costs.”