Health insurer files for rate decrease for Alaska market

  • By Becky Bohrer
  • Tuesday, August 1, 2017 10:39pm
  • News

JUNEAU — The lone insurer offering policies on Alaska’s individual health insurance market has filed for an average rate decrease of about 22 percent next year.

If approved, this would be the first time the average rate has decreased under the current federal health care law in Alaska, a remote state where high health care and premium costs have been an ongoing concern.

Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield attributed the requested drop in rates to factors including the payment of high-cost claims through a state program and a sharp reduction in the use of medical services by customers. The company in a statement called the rate decrease encouraging, but it cautioned against drawing any conclusions about a small Alaska market that it said remains volatile.

The filing has yet to be approved by the state.

Annual rate increases reached as high as about 40 percent previously and averaged about 7 percent for this year. The moderated increase followed passage by the state Legislature of a program intended to help stabilize the market, by addressing certain high-cost claims separately.

The state requested federal help to keep the program going, arguing it will save the federal government millions of dollars in subsidies that many in the individual market receive to ease their premium costs. The federal government recently approved the request.

Premera spokeswoman Melanie Coon said the monthly premium for a 40-year-old nonsmoker in Anchorage on the least expensive bronze plan, with an annual deductible of $5,250, was $703 a month this year. Under the proposed rate filing, the monthly premium would be $561 a month, she wrote in an email.

Insurers are required to provide breaks on copays and deductibles for low-income consumers. The government is to reimburse insurers for what they spend to provide the subsidies. Coon said the Alaska rate filing assumes the company will not receive such payments, which she said was because of the uncertainty in Washington, D.C., over what might happen with those payments.

The director of the state’s Division of Insurance has asked Premera to also submit an amended filing with those payments assumed, Coon said.

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