California Can't Block Staggering Health Insurance Rate Hikes

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The hearing is part of a new transparency law adopted by Iowa lawmakers last year after Wellmark requested an 18 percent increase in premiums in May.

Robert Bernard of Urbandale, Iowa attended today's hearing because of personal experience with increasing premiums on his individual policy. Though he switched insurance companies Jan. 1, Bernard, now retired, previously was insured by Wellmark and saw double-digit rate hikes in the past.

"Rate increases cause more and more people to be unable to afford insurance," he said. Rising costs "cause economic stress for people and their mental and physical health deteriorates."

His high insurance payments were difficult to handle -- Bernard said he "just didn't have the money." On top of increasing rates, he said his insurance plan did not cover a necessary medical procedure, forcing him to make monthly payments to both his medical provider and insurer.

Help On The Way?

Talking to the head of the insurance commission after the hearing, Bernard said his "sense is she and other people would do everything within their power to minimize the impact on people's lives and allow" more Iowans to keep their insurance.

ABC News' Brian Hartman contributed to this report.

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