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Blue Shield of California plans double-digit rate increases Posted: January 7th, 2011

By Maryalene LaPonsie

In the span of six months, many individual health plan customers of Blue Shield of California will likely experience three increases in their health insurance rate. The company has notified the California Department of Insurance of its intent to increase rates for individual and family PPO health plans as of March 2011. Previous rate increases went into effect in October 2010 and January 2011.

Many products involved

The increases affect products in the following plan lines:

  • Blue Shield Life PPO Plans
  • Shield Spectrum Plans
  • Shield Savings Plans
  • Active Start Plans
  • Essential Plans
  • Balance Plans
  • Vital Shield Plans

Big jumps for policyholders

While the increase percentage varies depending on the policyholder's residence, gender and age, the hikes average 6.5 percent and go as high as 18 percent for many categories. According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, 1 in 4 of the 193,000 affected policyholders will have seen a jump of 50 percent or more in their health insurance rates from October 2010 to March 2011 if the new rates are allowed.

Government's options

While the California Department of Insurance is currently reviewing the proposed rates, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones may reject an increase only if the insurer does not spend 70 percent of its premium income on health care costs. In news reports, a Blue Shield spokesman stated that the increases were needed to cover health reform mandates as well as the rising cost of health care.