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California Officials Say Hands Are Tied Over Health Insurance Rate Hikes

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is blasting Anthem Blue Cross for raising rates on small businesses. But other than complaining about it, there's little state officials can do.

California regulators aren't happy about it, but they don't have the power to block the latest Anthem Blue Cross rate hike from taking effect later this month.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Anthem's corporate headquarters in Newbury Park, California.

When auto or homeowner insurers want to raise premiums, they have to get permission from the California insurance commissioner. The regulator can reject rate increases that are found to be unreasonable.

But California officials can't block health insurance rate hikes. As a result, some 250,000 small business policyholders will see their Anthem Blue Cross rates go up this month. Some firms will see a 17 percent increase.

Health insurance premiums are regulated in 37 other states. A bill to grant that authority has never cleared the California legislature.

Consumer advocates have qualified a rate regulation measure for the November 2014 ballot. Health insurers are expected to wage an expensive battle to defeat it.

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