Blue Cross Notifies Montana Customers of Premium Increase

By Beacon Staff

HELENA — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana has notified thousands of customers it is raising premiums 3.5 percent in January because of taxes and fees included in the new federal health care law.

Notices dated Thursday were mailed to 3,000 holders of group policies that insure tens of thousands of Montanans, Lee Newspapers of Montana reported.

Some of the policyholders signed contracts earlier this year and are getting a mid-contract premium increase. State law generally forbids that, but makes exceptions for changes in state or federal laws.

“We are following the law,” said John Doran, spokesman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana. He said the company “waited until the last available minute to assess these fees.”

Blue Cross said the increases are due to changes that take effect Jan. 1 — a flat-rate federal tax on all health insurers to help pay the costs of the Affordable Health Care Act and a $63 per person, annual “reinsurance fee” that will help pay for high-cost claims.

Other major health insurers in the state say they already built the costs from the Affordable Care Act into current premiums.

“We’ve known about the (fees) for a long time, and we knew they were going to be collected,” said Todd Lovshin of PacificSource, which insures about 19,000 people in Montana.

Doran said Blue Cross felt it was better to wait until the fee was imposed before passing the cost onto customers.

Blue Cross said it did not know how many people are covered by the plans facing the premium increase.

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