California individual insurance rates to increase slightly

People who buy their own health insurance in California next year will see their rates increase by less than 1%, the lowest jump in five years that state officials attribute to a new law that taxes most people who refuse to buy coverage.

Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee says rates will increase an average of 0.8% percent next year. Specific rates charged by companies still must be approved by state regulators.

Most people in California — with nearly 40 million people — purchase their health insurance through their employer.

But about 2.2 million people purchase insurance on the individual market. Rates for those people have increased an average of nearly 8% every year since 2014, the first year former President Barack Obama's health care law went into effect.

Two things are happening in 2020 that state officials say will keep the rates in check: California will tax people who refuse to purchase insurance, and they will use the money they get from that tax to help middle-income people pay their monthly insurance premiums.

Dawn Kamber