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Seeking Rate Hikes — The Sequel

The state's two largest health insurers are once again seeking double-digit rate increases for small business and individual plans, The Boston Globe reports. The move is sure to escalate tensions between the insurers and state regulators, who previously denied requests for insurance rate increases and were then sued unsuccessfully by a group of health insurers. In short, the situation remains messy and unresolved. Reporter Robert Weisman explains the latest twist:

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state’s biggest health insurer, is requesting increases averaging 12 percent, on the lower end of the range it submitted earlier in the spring. Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, the number two carrier, wants increases that range from 8.8 percent to 11.9 percent, about the same range it sought in the round that was rejected.

The new premium rates are “actuarially sound and will cover the costs of the health benefits our members will receive,’’ said Tara Murray, a spokeswoman for Blue Cross Blue Shield.

But the rate filings are certain to be contentious at a time when state officials are working to rein in health care costs and insurers say they are being forced to sell policies at a loss.

Insurance Commissioner Joseph G. Murphy and his staff will give the latest round of proposed increases the same kind of tough scrutiny as those they rejected on April 1, weighing “whether they are excessive in relation to the health care benefits provided,’’ Barbara Anthony, undersecretary of the state Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, said yesterday.

This program aired on June 3, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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