OK, everyone leery of government intervention in our health care system. Take a look at what the L.A. Times reported today under the headline:
Anthem Blue Cross dramatically raising rates for Californians with individual health policies. Policyholders are incensed over rate hikes of as much as 39%, which they say come on top of similar increases last year. State insurance regulators say they’ll investigate.
Anthem Blue Cross is telling many of its approximately 800,000 customers who buy individual coverage — people not covered by group rates — that its prices will go up March 1 and may be adjusted “more frequently” than its typical yearly increases.
The insurer declined to say how high it is increasing rates. But brokers who sell these policies say they are fielding numerous calls from customers incensed over premium increases of 30% to 39%, saying they come on the heels of similar jumps last year.
… the company defended its premiums, even as it tried to strike a sympathetic tone.
“We understand and strongly share our members’ concerns over the rising cost of healthcare services and the corresponding adverse impact on insurance premiums,” the company said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, the individual market premiums are merely the symptoms of a larger underlying problem in California’s individual market — rising healthcare costs.”
Anthem is not the only health insurer imposing double-digit rate increases. Competitors such as Blue Shield of California and Aetna also have raised premiums significantly in recent years, insurance brokers said. But they said the impending Anthem increases are the largest they have seen.
39%. Way ahead of inflation and cost-of-living.
Rising healthcare costs? Too many MRI and CT tests for early detection of diseases? The rising costs of hospital stays, where every item is used once and then thrown away, to be charged to healthcare insurance (This is true — last year in the hospital every time my bandages were changed, the nurse had to throw away the metal scissors for sanitary reasons). The high quality of hospital food? (OK, that’s an necessary dig).
Here’s one reason healthcare costs may be rising: incompetence.
Today I received a cryptic call from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Business Office. “This is a courtesy call about a medical issue,” the woman on the phone said. “Could you please verify your name and address.” Since I didn’t know if this was really Cedars or a scam, I declined. The woman gave me a number to call to verify that Cedars needed to talk to me, and also gave me a reference number. Figuring a scam call could give me a scam number for “verification,” I called a number on my most recent bill from Cedars (I’m still paying off $xx.00 per month on an $xxx.00 bill left over from emergency surgery in 2008; I have a contract with Cedars for x number of monthly payments).
A woman at the billing number told that the reference number was for a doctor’s office affiliated with Cedars, and I was transferred. After being on hold for 10 minutes, another operator came on, and asked me to verify my name, address and phone number.
“I see you’re paying $xx.00 per month and are up-to-date but apparently there was a change and the bill went to default. But it has been corrected.”
“So I’m current and not in arrears,” I asked.
“Then why did you call me?”
“That was a courtesy call because the terms changed.”
“But how could the terms change if I have a contract and I’m making the payments every month?”
“Well, that was just a courtesy call. You can just disregard it.”
“Why are you wasting my time?”
Of course, the other reason for health insurance carriers raising their rates: GREED