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State regulator wants to limit health-plan rate increases

Washington state’s top insurance regulator seeks new authority to limit health-insurance rate increases among the largest carriers and make insurance rates open to public review.

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler announced a package of legislative proposals Thursday.

One bill seeks authority to review rates in the individual health insurance market, policies that are often sold to people who do not have access to employer-sponsored plans.

Another proposal would make all health insurance rate filings public, a move that would release details of insurance company prices.

A third proposal would limit rate increases charged by the state’s large nonprofit insurers such as Premera Blue Cross, Regence Blue Shield, and Group Health Cooperative, which have collected a combined $2.4 billion in surpluses.

Kreidler and critics of the big insurers have argued that those companies – which operate as nonprofit organizations – have hoarded the money, which is in excess what they expect to pay out in claims.

The insurers have argued that the surpluses amount to emergency funds to offset what would be tremendous expenses in the case of something such as a flu pandemic.



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