KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Calif. Insurance Commissioner Calls Blue Shield Rate Hike ‘Unreasonable’

The state's top insurance regulator criticized proposed rate hikes of as much as 20 percent for 268,000 individual policyholders, but he and other state officials don't have the authority to reject the increases.

Los Angeles Times: California Insurance Commissioner Chides Blue Shield Over Rates
For the second time in two days, a state regulator criticized Blue Shield of California for an "unreasonable" rate hike affecting tens of thousands of individual policyholders. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said Thursday that the nonprofit health insurer's latest rate hike of as much as 20 percent for about 268,000 individual policyholders was excessive. But he and other state officials don't have the authority to reject changes in premiums (Terhune, 3/7).

San Francisco Chronicle: Health Premium Increases Meet Resistance
Hundreds of thousands of Californians covered by the state's largest health insurers are facing double-digit premium hikes, and regulators and consumers are pushing back. On Thursday, the state insurance commissioner said Blue Shield of California's proposed health premium increases - averaging 11.7 percent for most policyholders, but nearing 20 percent for some - were unreasonable. "California's health insurers are proposing double-digit increases in spite of the fact the data doesn't support them," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. He said the department's review of the March 1 increases for 268,000 individual policyholders showed Blue Shield overestimated how much medical care its consumers would use (Colliver, 3/7).

Also, insurer profit in Oregon stays flat --

The Lund Report: Oregon Insurer Profits Remain Thin In 2012
Was 2012 the year of the health insurance upstart? While Oregon’s two largest plans either shed members (in the case of Kaiser Permanente) or barely grew (Regence BlueCross BlueShield), two smaller companies made strong inroads within the market, according to annual reports released in the past week by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Regence and Kaiser continue to each outweigh any other plan in the state by more than a quarter million covered lives. But PacificSource Health Plans appears willing to post financial losses to woo customers away from the competition. Reporting a 2012 net loss of $25.9 million – about $60 per person covered – PacificSource grew enrollment by 10.2 percent, or more than 20,000 people. Much smaller ODS Health Plans, meanwhile, managed to stay profitable while attracting 11,185 new members, a 17.6 percent climb (Sherwood, 3/7).

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