As state leaders blast giant health insurers for raising rates, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration has quietly allowed hefty increases for thousands of sick or jobless Californians who must rely on expensive safety-net coverage -- if they want insurance at all.
To the frustration of policyholders, state regulators have given insurance companies permission to raise maximum premiums for most of the 20,000 Californians who depend on the coverage of last resort. Some who buy the insurance will have to pay an extra $7,500 annually, pushing their bills to nearly $25,000.
Healthcare advocates say that continued high unemployment in California could drive up the ranks of people in this high-risk pool who have no other options for protecting themselves against catastrophic medical expenses.