Monday, February 08, 2010

While Americans are struggling to get off the floor

Anthem Blue Cross decides to kick them even more:
Anthem Blue Cross customers got a shock this week when the health insurer informed thousands of individual policyholders that their premium rates will jump as much as 39 percent on March 1.

The company, based in Woodland Hills (Los Angles County), declined to say how many customers received the increase or what the average premium hike was, but the insurer has the largest number of individual customers in the state. Last year, when Anthem Blue Cross raised rates by as much as 68 percent for some customers, the company said it had about 800,000 members.

The Department of Insurance plans to hire an actuarial firm to look into Anthem's "alarming" rate increases, said Darrel Ng, spokesman for the department.

Unlike home and automobile insurers, California insurers can legally raise rates for policyholders as much as and whenever they want. Regulators technically oversee the increases, but they have no power to control rates.
It's a free-for-all out there as fake health care companies try to wring out the last bit of cash from desperate people:
At a time when nearly 7 million Californians are uninsured, state regulators are trying to rein in discount health and dental plans that officials say frequently overstate benefits, offer little if any savings and promise access to doctors who aren't part of the system.

Some of the discounters fraudulently market themselves as insurance, while preying on the poor, the elderly and others who urgently need care, officials say.

"They're basically cheating poor people," said Dr. Dev GnanaDev, immediate past president of the California Medical Assn.

Plan executives bristle at such criticism. They say a few bad apples have tarnished an industry that offers reliable -- and relatively inexpensive -- services. Consumers, however, have lodged complaints against more than 150 unlicensed discount health and dental plans over the last four years, prompting the California Department of Managed Health Care to seek new licensing regulations .

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