KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Insurance Rates Soar In Various States

People who buy their own health insurance are seeing their premiums increases by 15 percent or more in four states, and those in others could be faced with the same, The Associated Press/Seattle Times reports. "Anthem Blue Cross, a subsidiary of WellPoint Inc., has been under fire for a week from regulators and politicians for notifying some of its 800,000 individual policyholders in California that it plans to raise rates by up to 39 percent March 1." Similar increases are happening in Maine, Kansas and Oregon where, in that state, "multiple insurers were granted rate hikes of 15 percent or more this year after increases of around 25 percent last year for customers who purchase individual health insurance." Rate hikes within this segment of the insurance market, which covers about 13 million Americans, as of 2008, "have popped up sporadically for years. Experts see them becoming increasingly common" (Johnson, 2/17).

Chicago Tribune/The Associated Press: "Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield plans to raise health insurance rates for about 80,000 Iowans an average of 18 percent. … Wellmark spokesman Rob Schweers says rising health care costs are driving the premium increases, to take effect April 1. Last year, Wellmark raised insurance rates for individual policyholders by an average of 9.3 percent." The insurance company insures 1.8 million Iowans (2/17).

Des Moines Register: This year's increases 'are a combination of medical cost inflation and increased usage,' Schweers said. 'Also, people are getting sicker as a population. There are more chronic diseases.'" Wellmark says the premium rate increases for Iowans range between 10 percent and 25 percent (Eller, 2/17).

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