OLYMPIA, Wash., Jan. 8 -- The Washington stateOffice of the Insurance Commissioner issued the following news release:
With two of the state's largest health insurers sitting on surpluses totaling $2.2 billion, Washington's top insurance regulator wants to use some of that money to lower costs for consumers.
According to the companies' most recent financial statements, Regence BlueShield's surplus has grown to $1.05 billion. Premera Blue Cross' surplus is $1.15 billion.
"These are non-profit companies," said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. "It's hard to square their billion-dollar surpluses with the fact that families are struggling to afford health insurance."
Kreidler is proposing legislation that would allow his office to consider surpluses when reviewing nonprofit health insurers' proposed rates. As things stand now, his staff must ignore them.
"As I've said before, it's like trying to ignore an elephant in the room," Kreidler said. "And the elephant's getting bigger."
The surpluses of both Regence and Premera have more than doubled in a decade. In the first nine months of 2012, Regence's grew by $60 million. Premera's grew by nearly $182 million.
"It's important to remember that these are not reserves, which are set aside to pay future claims," Kreidler said. "These billion-dollar surpluses are in addition to their reserves."
Commissioner Kreidler will be available for interviews from 11:00 to 1 p.m. today.
Charts showing the growth in surplus are below, and are also available at http://www.insurance.wa.gov/legislative/health-insurer-surplus.shtml. A link to the draft legislation is also available there.
Audio clips (mp3 format) and photos of the commissioner are available at www.insurance.wa.gov/news/media/index.shtml.
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