Who’s vetting the hikes?

The Anthem saga shows how desperately premium increases need regulation

Insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross seems determined to make the case that health-insurance rates should be strongly regulated. How else to explain its recent actions?

In February it announced a plan to raise premiums for individuals in California by an average of 25 percent—and in some cases by a whopping 39 percent. Ironically, Anthem’s outrageousness gave a timely push to the health-care legislation, helping to move it through Congress to passage.

So then Anthem backed off, postponing its rate hikes. More recently, an independent actuarial review found that Anthem had goofed up on its numbers and needed only a 15 percent hike to offset its costs.

What that tells us is that insurance companies cannot be depended on to present accurate calculations, even when they’re made in good faith. They need to be audited independently.

Insurance rate hikes are only part of the reason why health-care costs are going up so rapidly. Everybody in the business of medical care, from doctors and hospitals to the drug companies, is charging more. Until those costs are contained, insurance rates will continue to go up.

But the hikes should be based on good data. California needs to increase its oversight. And state officials should get behind Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s legislation to establish a system to regulate rates at the federal level, especially for states like California that don’t have their own rate-review processes.