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Aetna to scale back health insurance rate hikes

California policyholders will see an average increase of 12.2% starting July 1, down from the 17.9% hike the company had sought before the state's insurance commissioner intervened.

April 28, 2011|By Duke Helfand, Los Angeles Times
  • Aetna Inc. headquarters in Hartford., Conn. The health insurer agreed to scale back rate hikes in California.
Aetna Inc. headquarters in Hartford., Conn. The health insurer agreed… (Douglas Healey / Associated…)

A third major California health insurer has agreed to scale back insurance rate hikes this year for thousands of customers after postponing the increases for 60 days at the request of the state's insurance commissioner.

Health insurance rates for 65,000 Californians with individual policies from Aetna Inc. will rise an average of 12.2%, beginning July 1. The increases were trimmed back from an average of 17.9% after Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones raised concerns.

The reduction will save Aetna policyholders $6.7 million in premiums, a company spokeswoman said. Jones said the 60-day delay has saved customers another $1 million.

Aetna said it worked closely with Jones' department to strike an agreement on the new rates, but it also hinted that further restrictions could hamper its operations in California.

"Long term, our financial viability in the individual health insurance market in California could be impacted by the inability to implement rates which adequately address the rising cost of healthcare services in the state," the company said in a statement.

Aetna said that 31,000 policyholders would see their rates change by the end of September; the remainder will see new rates in the following months.

Two other insurers already have rolled back rate increases.

Anthem Blue Cross reduced July 1 increases for about 600,000 policyholders amid pressure from Jones' office. Blue Shield of California, meanwhile, canceled a May 1 increase altogether for nearly 200,000 members after Jones assailed the insurer for huge, multiple rate increases since last fall.

Unaffected by those decisions are more than 220,000 other individual Anthem and Blue Shield policyholders whose insurance is regulated by a different agency, the California Department of Managed Health Care. That department has asked the two companies to justify their rate hikes.

duke.helfand@latimes.com

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