Obamacare: Blue Shield seeks rate hikes up to 20%


In filings with California state regulators, Blue Shield is seeking an average rate increase of 12% for more than 300,000 customers. Consumer advocates say the firm should use its reserves to hold down rates.

Health insurer Blue Shield of California wants to raise rates as much as 20% for some individual policyholders, prompting calls for the nonprofit to use some of its record-high reserve of $3.9 billion to hold down premiums.

In filings with state regulators, Blue Shield is seeking an average rate increase of 12% for more than 300,000 customers, effective in March, with a maximum increase of 20%.

Some consumer advocates and healthcare economists say Blue Shield shouldn’t be raising rates that high when it has stockpiled so much cash. The company’s surplus is nearly three times as much as the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Assn. requires its member insurers to hold to cover future claims.

At Blue Shield of California, based in San Francisco, reserves have jumped 77% since 2006 from $2.2 billion to $3.9 billion in September. That has outpaced the company’s 19% growth in annual revenue since 2006.

Even with these proposed rate increases, Blue Shield expects to lose money in the individual insurance market in 2013 due to Obamacare and says it must raise rates.

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