* New rate hikes as high as 20 percent
* Previous request was for 25 pct average rate hike
LOS ANGELES, Aug 25 (Reuters) - California regulators on Wednesday approved WellPoint Inc’s WLP.N plan to raise rates for individual health insurance policies by an average of 14 percent, after errors were found in the company’s original rate hike request.
An initial bid by WellPoint’s Anthem Blue Cross unit for an average 25 percent rate increase for around 600,000 policyholders drew heavy criticism earlier this year from Democrats as they rallied support for the recently passed U.S. healthcare reform law.
WellPoint, the largest U.S. health insurer by membership, said it intends to put the new rates -- with increases as high as 20 percent -- into effect Oct. 1.
The company backed off its initial plan to increase premiums in March as much as 39 percent amid the heavy criticism. WellPoint said in July that it regretted “inadvertent” errors in the initial filing, which were discovered by an independent actuarial analysis requested by California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner.
“Anthem is pleased that the Department has posed no objections to our Individual rate filings and we look forward to continuing to serve consumers in California,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday. (Reporting by Deena Beasley, editing by Matthew Lewis)