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Mon., Feb. 28, 2011, 3:47 p.m.

Premera accused of “stonewalling”

Premera Blue Cross is "stonewalling" a bill that would require disclosure of information supporting health insurance rate hike applications, Washingotn Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler wrote today in a letter to consumers.

Washington's other two major medical health insurance carriers are willing to make the information available to the public before he acts on a rate application, Kreidler said.

Premera has balked, but would allow the disclosure after the Insurance Commissioner's office has ruled on a rate change.

"Under this bill, you would see what we see, including how much of your premium is spent on medical costs, how much goes to administrative costs, and how much goes to profit," Kreidler writes.

Premera spokesman Erik Earling said the company is "perplexed" by the letter, given its ongoing efforts to work with the Legislature on the bill, HB1220.

He said Premera wants release of the rate information delayed because what an insurance carrier applies for is not necessary what is approved after review by Kreidler.

The company routinely provides individual and small groups with a breakdown of the insurance dollar, he said. 

Current law blocks the release of information filed in conjunction with rate applications.

"It's unique for us to call out an insurer like this by name," said Insurance Office spokesman Rich Roesler.

In September, Kreidler criticized Regence Blue Shield because of its decision to stop writing policies on children 19 and under. He subsequently ordered the company to continue providing the insurance.

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Bert Caldwell
Bert Caldwell oversees production of the opinion pages, including writing editorials, and editing and selecting letters, columns and cartoons.