Blue Shield to delay rate hike after public pressure


Blue Shield of California agreed to delay its premium rate increases on the same day that protesters gathered before the insurer's San Francisco headquarters.

After initially balking, Blue Shield agreed to comply with California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones's request that it delay a March 1 rate increase for 60 days. The insurer previously was moving forward with its third increase since October that together would raise policyholders' rates by as much as 59 percent, reports the Los Angeles Times. Blue Shield follows in the steps of Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross and Pacificare in postponing its rate hikes.

"We are taking this action to remove any doubt that the rates we have submitted are necessary to pay the medical expenses of our individual members," Blue Shield CEO Bruce Bodaken said in a statement.

Meanwhile, a group of policyholders and nurses protested outside Blue Shield's office to call attention to the insurer's penchant for denying claims. The California Nurses Association added fuel to the controversy by claiming Blue Shield denied 21 percent of claims during the first three quarters of 2010, according to the Bay Citizen.

That amounts to nearly 2 million claims last year. The CNA said Anthem Blue Cross denied nearly 6 million claims and PacifiCare denied 44 percent of claims, reports the San Francisco Bay Area Today. CNA's Chuck Idelson told KPBS this industry-wide problem has been going on for a long time. "We've tracked it back to 2002 and there have been 67 million claims denied in California in the last eight years," he said.

To learn more:
- read the Los Angeles Times article
- see the San Francisco Bay Area Today story
- view the Bay Citizen piece
- read the KPBS story

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