Another rate case, another enrollment drop

Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, which only five months ago (on July 19) was granted by Oregon regulators a 12.8% increase, today filed for a 4.5% average premium increase, effective in April. It’s an adjustment of the rate increase already granted earlier this year, a change Regence said actually amounts to a 2.2% reduction from the earlier-granted increase (because of lower than estimated usage of medical services). Despite that, for some ratepayers, the increase could amount to as much as 8.5%. (Some may see a decrease in payments.) A hearing is planned for January 5.

The Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, which has been acting as the consumer advocate in recent health insurance cases in Oregon, noted that the new case affects 47,806 Oregon workers with small-employer-sponsored coverage. Then notes: “Regence appears to have lost over 11% enrollment in its small business plans since the insurer’s last filing in March of 2011, when it reported enrollment of 54,299.”

Between 2007 and the summer of 2011, Regence enrollment, in a period of ongoing rate increases, fell by 40%.

How many more rate increases will it take to knock Regence down to 30,000 insurance, to 20,000, to 10,000? As the risk pool gets ever smaller, the rates will shoot ever higher. Where is this going to leave us all a few more years down the line? What will it take to fix a system so obviously broken?

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