California insurance regulator accuses Aetna of 'price gouging'

California officials have found health insurance giant Aetna's premium increases on small businesses unreasonable for the fourth time since 2013, according to a Los Angeles Times report.

Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna raised rates by an average of 21 percent for about 13,000 people covered by small employers in California, effective July 1.

"Aetna's pattern of unreasonable increases equates to price gouging in today's market," said Shelley Rouillard, director of the California Department of Managed Health Care, according to the report. "I strongly encourage small employers subjected to these unreasonable rate increases to explore more affordable health coverage options."

Aetna defended the rate increases and said they were necessary based on projections.

"While rate increases are never easy, our rates are based on actuarially sound data and a reasonable projection of future cost," an Aetna spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times. "We are making every effort to maintain an affordable array of products."

 However, Ms. Rouillard told the Los Angeles Times Aetna has failed to provide documentation to justify the rate hikes.

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