Md. Blues seek increase in rates for individuals


Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland asked state regulators yesterday to approve rate increases, effective Oct. 1, for several plans covering individuals under the age of 65.

The increases would affect about 25,000 Personal Comp policies and 6,100 hospital and medical/surgical plans, said Linda Benedict, vice president of Blue Cross' Individual Market Division. In addition, premiums would go up on 1,000 student policies.

"They are necessary due to continued increases in medical cost inflation and utilization," Ms. Benedict said, adding that the increases affect a small percentage of the 250,000 individual policies sold by the company.

Most of the company's policies provide insurance coverage for people who belong to group policies, such as those provided by employers. Overall, Blue Cross insures roughly 1.4 million people in the state.

The rate increase -- which would affect 4 percent of the company's total enrollment -- comes as the state's largest health insurer faces intense scrutiny of its financial operations and management practices. A U.S. Senate subcommittee, investigating fraud and abuse by insurers, has scheduled a two-day hearing on the company for late September.

With the proposed rate increase, the monthly premium on the Personal Comp plan with a $200 deductible for a policyholder between 30 and 39 would rise to $118.71 from $109.11. The same comprehensive medical plan for a family would increase to $308.64 a month from $283.68.

The requested increase for the hospital and medical/surgical policies -- a limited coverage plan no longer sold by Blue Cross -- means the average monthly premium would increase to $123.90 from $103.12.

If approved, rates would also rise $3 a month on roughly 1,000 student plans, from $19.95 a month to $22.95.

Ms. Benedict said yesterday that rates for the Personal Comp and the hospital and medical/surgical plans had already been increased within the past year. The last increase for the student plan, however, was in April 1988, she said.

In May, the state Insurance Division approved a 5.1 percent rate increase for customers who had converted to private coverage from a group health insurance policy sold by the company.

About 11,000 people, including many who have been laid off or fired from their jobs, were covered by such policies, which are sold directly to individuals who previously were insured in group Blue Cross plans.

The Insurance Division is expected to act on the insurer's latest rate request within six weeks.

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