Pointing to slowdowns in medical cost increases, Blues plans in Massachusetts and Tennessee have announced they are softening premiums--slowing down upcoming increases in one case and refunding unspent portions of past premiums in another.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts announced last week that, starting this month, average yearly premiums for small employers in managed care plans will rise just over 9%, down from more than 16% in the first half of 2003. It added that large employers will see similar premium breaks.
"Results thus far in 2003 indicate that expenses are growing at a more moderate rate across the board--both medical claims paid and administrative costs," the Massachusetts company announced.
In late October, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee announced plans to refund $67 million in paid premiums for 2003 to fully insured groups and individual healthcare policyholders.
"Analysis of the company's current health care costs indicates a lower than predicted increase in annual medical claims costs," the Tennessee company announced. "The resulting unused premiums have prompted BlueCross to give its customers a year-end premium payback."
"We've asked our customers to work with us on addressing health care affordability," said Vicky Gregg, president and CEO, in a Tennessee Blues release. "Their efforts have paid off. Wiser health care choices, more generic drug substitutions, and preventive medicine have led, in part, to a slower-than-normal increase in medical claims costs."
Many insurers across the country have been charging employees higher deductibles and co-payments for medical care, with the goal of better controlling utilization. But to date, other managed care companies have not announced a softening of premiums like the two Blues plans have done.