Wellmark faces criticism, opposition to rate hike at public hearing

The general consensus during a public hearing regarding Wellmark's proposed 11 percent premium rate increase for individual policies is that it's too high.

Two actuaries said the rate increase is excessive. One of the actuaries, Lewis & Ellis, said the rate increase for most of Wellmark's individual policyholders should be 7.5 percent. The other actuary, who works for the state insurance division, said the rate hike should be 9 percent. The actuaries looked at trends in medical costs and use of services by Wellmark's customers, the Des Moines Register notes.

Additionally, the Iowa Insurance Division has received 404 public comments, with 100 of them asking that the rate increase be denied, according to the Estherville Daily News. Most of the people who attended the hearing or listened via a satellite also urged the department to prevent the rate hike.

In a news release issued the same day as the hearing, Wellmark said it has been paying close attention to the hearings and it agrees with many of its members' points, according to the Des Moines Register. "Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield is reviewing the results of the Iowa Insurance Division's actuarial review, and their independent consultant's review of Wellmark's proposed rate increases in the Iowa individual insurance market. We will be working closely with the division in the coming days to discuss the differences in each of the three analyses and determine what steps are needed to complete the rate approval process."

Jeff Fisher, Wellmark's assistant general counsel, was the only company representative at the hearing. He told the attendees that "it's our position that the rate increase we have requested is justified, but it's certainly much higher than Wellmark or our customers would like to see."

The Iowa insurance department has until the end of the month to recommend any changes to Wellmark's proposed rate increase, which would begin April 1, notes the Quad-City Times.

To learn more:
- read the Des Moines Register article
- see the Estherville Daily News story
- view the Quad-City Times piece

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