Premera ends plan after clash with insurance commissioner

Premera Blue Cross has decided to drop a health plan that serves individuals and small employer groups in Washington state after it grappled with regulators over its prescription drug coverage, reported The Spokesman-Review.

Premera decided to discontinue the plan offered by its LifeWise affiliate--which has about 45,000 enrollees--after Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler denied its request to drop the prescription drug benefit, according to the article.

The LifeWise plan is a popular catastrophic plan. It previously had generic drug coverage, but Kreidler's office had ruled that paying only for generics was a violation of state law, noted the Spokesman-Review.

"It's deeply troubling that despite sitting on nearly a $1 billion surplus, Premera is still looking for ways to short change consumers," Kreidler said last week in a statement issued by his office. "Prescription drug coverage is an essential health benefit under the Affordable Care Act and will be required of all plans in 2014."

According to Kreidler, generic-only drug coverage would exclude drugs used to treat types of cancer, AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments, noted the Spokesman-Review.

Kreidler has often butted heads with Premera, leading a campaign to deny its attempt to convert to for-profit status, according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

The plan will be discontinued within 90 days, the Spokesman-Review reported.

To learn more:
- read the Spokesman-Review article
- here's the Insurance Commissioner's statement
- read the Seattle PI blog post