WDAY.com

WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published March 31, 2011, 03:44 PM

ND Blue Cross Blue Shield to Increase Premiums 2.4 to 16.9 percent for 30,000 Members

The annual rate increases, which range from 2.4 percent to 16.9 percent, depend upon when the member first purchased coverage and whether that was before or after a health reform provision took effect.

By: Patrick Springer, Forum Communications

FARGO – Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota announced today that it is increasing premiums for almost 30,000 members effective May 1.

The annual rate increases, which range from 2.4 percent to 16.9 percent, depend upon when the member first purchased coverage and whether that was before or after a health reform provision took effect. The increases announced Thursday do not include employer groups.

Costs to cover the individual members have exceeded premiums, and the loss totaled $20.6 million over the past 29 months, with $12 million of those losses in the past 12 months.

“The cost of insurance reflects the cost of claims, and we process those claims more efficiently than most other insurance companies,” Paul von Ebers, the Blues’ president and CEO said in a statement.

“The reality is that all our members are using more costly medical services, more often, so the cost for premiums is going up,” he added. “We know our current system, with this rate of medical inflation, is simply unsustainable.”

The annual medical inflation rate over the past decade has averaged 8 percent for the insurer. In partnership with major provider groups, the North Dakota Blues are trying to reduce that average to 6.5 percent in three years.

Adam Hamm, the North Dakota insurance commissioner, was not available for comment. The premium hikes he approved were lower than those sought by the insurer.

Denise Kolpack, a Blue Cross Blue Shield spokeswoman, said the rates needed to break even are greater than those approved. The company is phasing in the increases over three years to soften the increase to consumers, she said.

Springer is a reporter at the Fargo Forum, which is owned by Forum Communications

Tags: