Nightly News   |  January 08, 2013

Health insurance to rise 20% or more in California

Several states including California, Florida and Ohio are facing double-digit health insurance rate increases. On Tuesday, the California insurance commissioner deemed one proposed group insurance increase unreasonable and accused companies of trying to maximize profits. NBC’s Lisa Myers reports.

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>>> now to an unwelcome surprise for millions of americans this new year, health insurance premiums that are causing sticker shock, double-digit increases in some places, suddenly a whole lot of families are watching this happen in the era of the so-called affordable care act , better known as obama care. we get an explanation here tonight from nbc's lisa myers .

>> reporter: as a pediatrician, dr. jan mayzell knows all about rising medical costs, but she was stunned to discover the cost of her own health insurance is going up a whopping 25% this year.

>> i'm impacting my ability to retire. i'm very worried about that, because i'm depleting my savings to be able to keep this health insurance .

>> reporter: some insurance companies in california including anthem blue cross , aetna and blue shield of california are proposing rate increases of 20% or more for some individual customers. today the california insurance commissioner deemed one proposed group increase unreasonable and accused companies of trying to maximize profits.

>> it's a disaster. it explains why we have 6 million to 7 million californians who simply can't afford health insurance and it's not going to get any better.

>> reporter: and it's not just california . in florida and ohio, insurers have instituted double-digit rate increases. new york, which unlike california , has power to roll back rates, has generally held increases below 10%. overall, medical costs are projected to rise only 7.5% this year, so some experts are puzzled by the double-digit premium increases, and question whether it has something to do with the obama care law, which will bring big changes next year.

>> they know they're going to have a lot of changes and lose some business and get new business anyway. it may be that this is the best strategy for them to maximize profits for this year.

>> reporter: the insurance companies insist they are not profiteering and say higher premiums are the result of simple math and a few early costs of obama care.

>> premiums are going up because costs are going up. two, because of the population that's being served, is it older and sicker versus younger and healthy, and three, the new requirements with respect to regulatory issues as well as benefit, new benefits requirements.

>> reporter: and they warn that with added requirements and taxes under the new health care law , some consumers can expect significant increases again next year. lisa myers , nbc news, washington.