Earling Leaves Premera Blue Cross, Joins State of Reform

Its affiliate, LifeWise of Oregon, already announced plans to leave the market at the end of 2016.

After a seven year high profile career at Premera Blue Cross, Eric Earling has joined State of Reform as senior vice president. He has since relocated to New Orleans to lead work on building its South Central edition, while continuing to support its projects on the West Coast.

State of Reform holds its Oregon conference on September 28 in Portland.

Earling had been Premera’s spokesperson during the launch of the exchange, the IT breach and individual market instability. He had been vice president of corporate communications for Prmera and LifeWise Health Plan of Washington, its affiliate.

LifeWise Leaves Oregon

Earlier, LifeWise announced it was pulling out of Oregon’s competitive insurance market at the end of 2016 after a 22 year presence. Individual coverage will end on Dec. 31, with some groups remaining until 2017 depending on their contracts.

This decision follows years’ of losses, including $36 million in 2015, and a shrinking customer base. "We have been losing money over a number of years," said Melanie Coon, a company spokeswoman. "We've been thinking about this for a while."

In 2004, LifeWise served 163,000 customers but now has fewer than 50,000 members on individual and group plans in Oregon, and its customer base only represents 2 percent of the total market, according to the Department of Consumer and Business Services.

LifeWise will remain competitive in Washington and Alaska, according to Majd El-Azma, president and CEO.

Years of pummeling losses crippled LifeWise Health Plan’s ability to remain solvent in Oregon, yet that didn’t hamper top management from earning handsome salaries in 2015, with some of its sales and account managers taking home double digit increases, according to filings with the Oregon Insurance Division.

On the financial side, LifeWise lost $35.7 million in 2015, which followed a $24.3 million loss the prior year. At the same time, its cash and equivalents increased by nearly $2 million since 2014 – reaching $7.2 million.

But when it came to hospital and other medical costs, LifeWise suffered a crippling blow – spending $255.4 million in 2015 compared to only $80.6 million the year prior.

LifeWise’s self-insured employer clients have lost the company money. It reported a net loss from operations of its administrative services contracts of $1.4 million.

Diane can be reached at [email protected].

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