Policyholders Supporting Prop 45 Detail Health Insurance Price-Gouging, says Consumer Watchdog Campaign


Data Shows 1 Million Californians Faced Unreasonable Rates Totaling $253 Million

SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 2, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Policyholders who faced extreme health insurance premium hikes rallied with nurses from the California Nurses Association, Consumer Watchdog, and other citizens in the state capitol Wednesday to support Proposition 45, which requires health insurance companies to justify and get approval for rate hikes.

Consumer Watchdog Campaign, the sponsor of Prop 45, released a new analysis of state insurance records that found that more than 1 million California policyholders faced $253,000,000 in rate hikes that were deemed "unreasonable" by regulators who had no power to stop the hikes.  (See the rate filing data at: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/unreasonableratefilings-consumercost.xlsx_.pdf)  Prop 45 would give the insurance commissioner the power to deny unreasonable rate increases, which can only be noted today.

Consumer Watchdog said new transparency and the leverage given to regulators would produce even bigger premium reductions than the $250 million in hikes deemed unreasonable.

"Our family's increases have been massive," said Josh Libresco of San Rafael. "We are now paying a premium of $2,132 per month for our family coverage, an increase of more than 1,300%.  That does not even count the fact that we now have to meet a $5,900 deductible each year, for each family member.  In addition, our co-pay when we go to the doctor is now $45."

"Sunshine and transparency have lowered California auto insurance rates over twenty five years, the only state in the nation to see a decrease in auto insurance prices, and applying the same rules to health insurance will produce similarly large savings," said Jamie Court, Prop 45's proponent and president of Consumer Watchdog.

The Consumer Federation of America reported in November 2013 that voter-approved insurance reforms that Prop 45 would apply to health insurance companies has saved drivers $102 billion on their auto insurance over the last two decades. At least thirty five other states give regulators the power to approve or deny rate hikes, but not California. Prop 45 changes that.

Nurses from the California Nurses Association rallied in support of Prop 45 on the steps of the state capitol. 

"Registered nurses strongly support Proposition 45 to finally put some common sense restraints on the exorbitant price increases imposed on patients and families by corporate health insurance giants," said California Nurses Association Co-President Deborah Burger, RN.

"Price gouging is rampant in the healthcare industry. Our patients pay the price. RNs regularly see patients who struggle to pay the immorally high costs imposed on them for needed medical care. We see patients who have to decide whether to pay a medical bill and face financial ruin or bankruptcy. Whether to choose to pay for the medical treatment they need and their doctor recommends and cut back on other basic needs for their family – food, clothing, utility bills, or shelter," Burger continued.

"In my nearly 20 years of practice, I have never seen my patients experience problems with excessive annual rate increases like I have here in California," said Dr. Paul Song, practicing board certified radiation oncologist as well as the co-chair for a Campaign for a Healthy CA and the executive chairman of the Courage Campaign. "Since 2002 rates in CA have increased over 185% while inflation has totaled 33.3%."

Consumer Watchdog Campaign also noted that last week it had addressed concerns raised by Covered California over interference with its operation. A summary of those answers to Covered California questions is available at: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/reasonsrateregulationwillnotinterferewithcoveredcalifornia.pdf

Prop 45 will save Covered California's 1.4 million enrollees on their health insurance premiums and cause neither delay nor interference with Covered California operations.  In addition, Prop 45 also applies to another 4.5 million other consumers who buy individual or small business polices in California.

For more information on Prop 45 visit: www.justifyrates.org

This week Consumer Watchdog called upon its email subscribers to sound off about their rate hike problems.  The consumer group delivered a list of consumer stories to legislative hearings on Prop 45 that followed the rally.  The highlights of those patient problems include:

Excerpts of Health Insurance Horror Stories Delivered Wednesday

"I have had Blue Cross Health Insurance since 1997…it cost $234 per month and now it is $2386 per month (10 times as much).  I am 57 years old and was going to retire at 60 but I cannot because the cost of my health insurance is so high.  I never thought that the health insurance would be higher than my mortgage payment and utilities."

"My …last hike went from $1498 per month to $1764. per month.  That is for one person.  …after paying huge costs every month, the insurance redefines this small claim so they do not have to pay for my one and only medication….Short history of billing for Anthem Blue Cross:                      9/1/11-10/1/11       $1197.     7/1/14--8/1/14       $1721.          
…I hope you can help."

"…we're working to pay [for] health care. I'm paying $800.00 a month… my wife got sick …I have to come up with the first $20,000….This is a big joke the[y']re profiting billon[s] as…We're eating beans and rice …"

"My health insurance has gone up by more than 33% in the last 5-years…Every year there is a rate increase…Health insurance is the second highest bill I paid each month next to housing, which btw has only gone up by 10% in the last 9+ years.

"I can't find a doctor to take my plan. Now, I am in a grace period, and have $900 of bills, and an injury that is 7 months old and needs to be treated."


"…my BS PPO rate more than doubled from around 1400$/three months [$467/mo] to 840$/month…And I was downgraded to a lesser plan w higher yearly max deductible: Now at 10,000$.  And I now have a 40% copay….insurance companies…have their cake and eat it too.  And freedom to raise rates whenever: that is minimal to no accountability….Restrictions should be in place that are just as restrictive, in spirit, to those placed on me, the consumer…."

"5 or so years ago I was paying approximately $300 a month for a low deductible premium though my employer for my family of 3. Every year the premium has gone up & now I'm paying $614 a month for my family. But what's worse is that it's a high deductible plan…not only am I paying double but …I'm paying everything upfront until I reach the max of $3500 annually…I'm basically paying just so I don't get fined for not having insurance.

"It hurts because …my daughters…it's been over a year since they've had their last check up & I can't afford to spend $250 for the appointment plus the immunization shots."

"I am …a nurse, so one would think we would get the best coverage and options…every plan increased per pay period with the least increase being $10 every 2 weeks, others up to $50 dollars every 2 weeks…get admitted to the hospital, you now have a $1000.00 copay… outpatient procedure now has a $500.00 copay...there is now a 10% coinsurance cost to every visit, lab, procedure admission…these were hikes created by Anthem Blue Cross…many of the ancillary employees can't afford the cost of the insurance, and dropped out of the program."

"My insurance charges are extremely expensive for a family of 4.. I strongly believe that the government should do something about this it's ridiculous all the money the insurance company are making.

DIANE HSU, Hillsborough
"…my insurance increased from $185 to $385 per month. Still, I have to pay lots of copay and the stuff. It is very depressing to me because I am a single mom now. The extra $300 is really a burden now. Some times I think that I would rather stop my the medical insurance and to get a fine from the government."

"My wife Minnie was paying over $400 per month premium to Antham Blue Cross …In the next 5 or 6 years her rates continued to raise til they were over $600 a month, actually nearly $700."

Between me and my wife, we're paying our doctor's visit co-payment at the rate of $2,500 per year…specialist…cost me $70 per visit, [up] from $50 per visit…To date I am down to zero on some of my medicines because I can not order anymore….The $1,500 a month pension [my wife gets is]…enough to pay the…insurance. We used to pay Health Net $1,500 a month which is just like passing her pension to them!...I have no more medicines to take and will just probably wait for my time if nothing positive will happen."

"Anthem  Blue Cross charged  my healthy 43 year daughter and her healthy 7 year daughter $909 a month. Obscene. Unfair."

"My deductible for healthcare through United Healthcare went up $500 in just one year for 2014. My co pay for dental care through Aetna for a crown is now 50%...."

CATHY CHIESA, San Francisco
"I was insured with kaiser for about 2years my premium for 2014 was increased from 300 to 575 so I dropped kaiser and I had to sign up for medical."

"I made $800.00 as a primary caregiver for a parent with dementia. When I tried to get health insurance the rate was over $400 per month. I could not afford it. I had non-liquid assets, but limited income, so I have no health insurance."

"My health care horror story is that even though I pay approximately $350 per month for health care, I receive no actual health care.  All my money is spent on health care insurance…The upshot of this situation is that I do not go to the doctor anymore…I had not been to a doctor for six straight years, yet a I paid $350 (approximately) every month for six years."

SAYEEDA, San Ramon
"I got a bill of $1000 after insurance paid the hospital 13000 for minor eye surgery. It was for eye drops used during surgery. I pleaded to waive the bill as we have hardship…Nothing worked. Ended up paying in 8 month installments…."

DAVID, Ventura
6/30/14 "United Healthcare Excessive increases: Monthly insurance premiums more than doubled from under $200/mo to almost $500/mo. I am having trouble paying my bills because of it"

ROBIN, Placerville
6/30/14 – "Kaiser Health Insurance Cost: I am retired and on a limited income. My health insurance doubled this year. Every November I cringe when I have to open my statement about next year's health insurance rate hikes!! …Please Legislators think of the people for a change and not the big pocket insurance companies that are controlling our health care costs!"

RICHARD, Needles, CA
6/30/14: "Anthem Blue Cross - Over charging; poor to nonexistent customer service:
Anthem notified me that my current plan ($462/month for me and my wife) would no longer be offered after 12/31/13 in mid Oct of 2013, and that I would be automatically transferred to a new plan on 1/1/14 ($879.37 per month for me and my wife)…."

JUDY, Nipomo, CA
6/30/14 "Anthem Blue Cross Rate Hike Unfair: Due to rate hikes I had to drop my kids off my plan. Then Anthem increased my premium anyway to very close to where it was when I had my three children on the plan…"

SOURCE Consumer Watchdog Campaign