Regence BlueCross BlueShield Wants to Raise Rates for Small Businesses

However, the insurer has toned down its request after realizing that its medical and pharmaceutical costs did not take as huge an increase as anticipated

September 13, 2012 -- Regence BlueCross BlueShield is at it again – this time asking for a 4.3 percent average rate increase for small employers that, if approved, would take effect in January.

However, this time around Regence’s request actually represents a 3.9 percent decrease from previously approved rates by the Oregon Insurance Division. .

That’s because medical costs have gone down slightly since Regence made its first request -- from 10.8 percent to 7.6 percent -- while the same held true for prescription costs which increased by 11.1 percent compared to earlier projections of 12.2 percent.

If approved, this latest rate request would impact close to 13,000 businesses. The Insurance Division has scheduled a public hearing at 4 p.m. on September 25 to review this rate request, which will be held in the Labor and Industries Building in Salem and can be watched online.

To view the rate request and make comments, click here.

Regence isn’t the only insurer asking for higher rates. PacificSource is also requesting an 8.62 percent rate hike that would impact 36,821 Oregonians, and a public hearing has been scheduled for September 24. To learn about that rate request, click here.

Meanwhile, people living in the Portland metropolitan area who purchase their own coverage from Regence have until October 1 to choose from the five physician-hospital networks – Portland Adventist Health, Legacy Health, Oregon Health & Science University, Providence and Tuality Healthcare

Otherwise, Members will be enrolled in either Adventist Health or Tuality Healthcare based on their proximity to the provider starting December 1. In most cases, members who have home addresses in Washington County and Yamhill County will be enrolled in Tuality.

Regence received approval last month for an 8.9 average rate increase for individual policyholders, but those rates will vary depending on which provider network is chosen. Adventist offers the lowest increase, 1.9 percent, followed by 6 percent for Tuality Healthcare, 10.4 percent for Legacy Health, 11.4 percent for OHSU and 14.5 percent for Providence.

In response to complaints from consumers who’ve had difficulty understanding the new benefit design and rate options, Scott Burton, with Regence Strategic Communications, told The Lund Report, “Our goal is to ensure our members have access to the information they need to make the best decisions for themselves and their family members during this time.“

He said Regence members can visit and click on "Find a Provider" and then "Advanced Search" to determine if a provider is among one of our Oregon Select Networks, or any of the network options they wish to choose. A website has also been created with provider maps and frequently asked questions to assist members.

And, Regence has created a dedicated member hotline, specifically for individual members to ask questions of trained customer service representatives about their benefit options. Members can call 1(888)675-6570 to explore options and information specific to their benefits coverage and their individual needs, Burton said.

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