Regence wants 22 percent rate hike

Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield wants to raise premiums by 22 percent for 59,000 individual customers, but it first must appear at a rare public hearing addressing the rate request.

In its rate filing with the Oregon insurance department, Regence says higher premiums are needed to cover the rising costs of medical services, which increased by 12.6 percent. It added that new state and federal mandates will increase the costs of medical and prescription drug coverage by 5.5 percent. Regence said the requested rate increase would allow it to make a 1.1 percent profit on individual plans, reports the Oregonian.

In response to Regence's rate request, Oregon state insurance regulators took the unusual step of scheduling a public hearing--the state's first in more than 20 years. "This request stands out in both size and the size of the audience" it would affect, Cheryl Martinis, spokeswoman for the Oregon Insurance Division, told the Portland Business Journal.

"We think public hearings for select rate filings would improve the transparency of our rate review process," Oregon Insurance Division Administrator Teresa Miller said.

Regence spokesperson Scott Burton said the company welcomes the public hearing and that it's doing everything it can to hold down rates. "Healthcare costs for our individual pool are increasing, while the number of people sharing the burden of those costs is shrinking," Burton told the Lund Report. "As a result, rates continue to rise. The rates we have requested in this filing are a direct reflection of these costs."

To learn more:
- read the Oregonian story
- see the Portland Business Journal article
- read the Lund Report piece