By Mina Kim
State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones says Anthem Blue Cross's rate hike on small business plans is "unreasonable" ... but he's powerless to stop it. .
Jones says his department actuaries calculated Anthem's average 11 percent rate hike on small employers would grow to nearly twenty percent in two years. On a call with reporters Tuesday, Jones blasted the insurer for overstating health care costs and for charging policy holders fees that won't be collected until 2014 under the Affordable Care Act.
"If you look at, on a return-on-equity basis," Jones said, "the profits that Anthem Blue Cross of California has made, they have been extraordinary."
Anthem Blue Cross spokesman Darrel Ng disputes Jones's figures saying the average rate increase is about half what Jones projects and that Anthem's profits last year, were about one percent.
"It is unfortunate that rates have to go up, but they reflect our underlying costs and the fact that people are using health care more," Ng said.
State regulators have no power to stop what they declare to be excessive rates. Jones is backing a November 2014 ballot measure that would change that and give his office the authority to reject rate hikes or demand rollbacks.