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Consumer advocates and patients facing May 1 rate increases delivered a blank check to health insurance companies representing the hundreds of millions more that one million Californians will pay for their insurance, today in Santa Monica and outside Anthem’s San Francisco offices. They called on voters to sign the official ballot initiative petition to require health insurance companies to get permission before raising rates.

One million Californians – the “May Million” – will pay premium increases as high as 20% for their health insurance with Anthem Blue Cross, Health Net and UnitedHealthcare on May 1st.

This week, Anthem Blue Cross parent company CEO Angela Braly told investors that California doesn’t need the health insurance rate regulation initiative because federal law adequately protects patients. Braly made $13.2 million in compensation in 2011. Anthem Blue Cross will raise rates by more than $100 million for over 700,000 Californians even as it delivers rebates for overcharging consumers last year and raked in $856 million in profits in the first quarter of 2012.

Harvey Rosenfield, author of insurance reform Proposition 103 which has saved drivers $62 billion since 1988, said: “CEO Angela Braly told investors that California already has plenty of oversight of health insurance prices and doesn’t need our ballot measure. She should tell that to the 700,000 customers of Anthem Blue Cross in California who will pay over $100 million more when their health insurance premiums go up on May 1st. A CEO who made $13 million last year is completely out of touch with patients who can’t afford double-digit rate increases because premiums are rising at five times the rate of inflation."

Jessica Blacher from Santa Monica is one of the “May Million” who was faced with a rate increase on May 1st. The proposed 23% hike in Jessica’s premiums was the fourth in just two years, and she was forced to trade her coverage for a catastrophic plan with lower benefits and higher out of pocket costs, including $9500 she must pay out of pocket every year on top of her premium.

Alison Heath, a self-employed mother from San Francisco, is also one of the “May Million,” and will pay a 19.7% rate increase on May 1st. Alison’s increase will be the third in less than two years, hiking the monthly premium on the Anthem policy that covers her and her husband to $1767 a month.

In her comments to investors Braly said California’s rate review process was “effective,” yet just last month a rate increase was implemented even though state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones found it was unreasonable, because no one in California has to power to prevent unreasonable rate increases.

Wellpoint’s 1st quarter financial report notes that medical costs increased just 4.8%, but California patients will see rate increases of up to 19.9%, more than four times that amount.

Consumer Watchdog Campaign, and supporters including U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, AARP, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Courage Campaign and Consumer Federation of California, have emailed millions of voters across the state, asking them to download, print, sign and return the petition at www.JustifyRates.org. The campaign has gathered more than 500,000 of the 795,000 signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot, with just three weeks of signature-gathering remaining.

Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog and proponent of the ballot initiative, with Jessica Blacher of Santa Monica.

The ballot initiative, the “Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act:"

  • Requires health insurance companies to publicly disclose and justify, under penalty of perjury, proposed rate changes before they take effect.
  • Makes every document filed by an insurance company to justify a rate increase a public record, and requires public hearings on some proposed rate increases.
  • Gives Californians the right to challenge excessive and unfair premium rate increases.
  • Prohibits health, auto and home insurers from considering Californians’ credit history or prior insurance coverage when setting premiums or deciding whether to offer coverage.
  • Gives the insurance commissioner authority to reject unjustified health insurance rate increases.

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