Washington State Insurers Impose Double Digit Rate Hikes, Again
"In what is becoming an annual ordeal for policyholders, Regence BlueShield is raising premiums for 135,000 individual health-plan members in Washington [state] by an average 17 percent on Aug. 1," the Seattle Times reports. The insurer's president attributed the rate hikes to "higher medical claims, inflation, costly prescription drugs and the expenses of treating a population that is aging and growing less healthy."
Other Washington insurers have also hiked rates in recent months, and it's the third straight year that Regence policy holders have had double-digit increases. Group Health Cooperative, a co-op which is owned by its policyholders, much like the organizations that would be created to compete with private insurers in hopes of reducing medical spending under one Senate reform proposal, raised its rates by 13 percent in June. Another insurer, LifeWise, hiked its own by 17.6 that month.
Insurers "get away with rate increases in this market because they can," Kathleen O'Connor a Regence customer and reform activist told the Times. "I'm not sure why the insurance commissioner is not all over these rate increases."
Others told the Times that they believed a government-run health insurance plan, another reform proposal, would force the companies to change their policies. Conservatives say such a plan could drive insurers out of business. But "that only goes to prove the point," said a Washington resident and Regence customer, who thinks it might not be a bad idea to drive some private insurers out of business (Song, 7/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.