Wellmark's 9.35% rate hike approved

Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield can move forward with its 9.35 percent increase in individual health insurance premiums for roughly 86,000 Iowans.

Iowa Insurance Commissioner Susan Voss approved the rate increase--which translates to as much as $45 more per month for consumers beginning April 1--saying the "balancing" of consumers' needs and Wellmark's solvency must be weighed carefully, the Des Moines Register reports.

Voss's decision largely was based on reviews from independent actuary Magnum Actuarial Group and the Iowa Insurance Division Staff, which concluded the Wellmark rate hike is reasonable and justified under state and federal guidelines, according to KCRG.

Magnum Actuarial Group noted that its decision was based only on whether the increases were justified by costs incurred by Wellmark, not whether the rates were affordable or the company was profitable, the Register notes.

Despite the actuaries' conclusions, many policyholders protested the proposed rate increases during a public hearing held last month. Voss recognized her decision has negative consequences for some Wellmark members. "This is not a decision she takes lightly," the order said. "Thousands of Iowans will be impacted by this decision - many in a negative fashion." 

In response to the approval, Wellmark acknowledged that the rate increase is "not a process we take lightly," spokeswoman Courtney Green said. "We genuinely care about our members and understand the hardships that take place."

To learn more:
- read Commissioner Voss's rate decision
- see the Des Moines Register articles on the actuaries' decision and the rate approval
- read the KCRG article