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Calif. committee passes bill to limit health insurance rate increases Posted: July 8th, 2011

By Maryalene LaPonsie

Seeking to put an end to what he deems excessive health insurance rate increases, California Assembly member Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) introduced Assembly Bill 52 in December 2010. The bill would give state regulators the ability to reject premium hikes. On July 6, 2011, the Senate Committee on Health approved the bill by a 5-3 vote.

Currently, the California Department of Insurance can review health insurance rates but cannot reject rates deemed excessive. AB 52 would allow the rejection of a rate proposal that is found to be "excessive, inadequate or unfairly discriminatory." An analysis by the Assembly Appropriations Committee concluded that it would cost the state $30 million annually to implement the provisions of AB 52.

"Health insurers continue to announce premium increases that far outpace the rate of medical inflation," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, speaking out in support of the bill earlier this year. "These significant rate increases come once, twice or even four times within a year's time on the same policyholders."

Meanwhile, the California Association of Health Plans argues the $30 million price tag is not worth the protection the bill may afford consumers. The association points to provisions in the Affordable Care Act that require minimum medical loss ratios and mandatory rate reviews as being sufficient.

AB 52 now goes to the Senate Committee on Appropriations for further consideration.