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Surplus reserves held by Blue Cross and Blue Shield have not stopped the company from asking for rate hikes, a Consumers Union study found.
The reserves are critical for ensuring claims can be covered, spokesmen for the non-profit company said. But the reserves held by several Blue Cross and Blue Shield branches far exceed the amount regulators stipulate the insurer must have, USA Today reported Thursday.
While premiums were raised as high as 18 percent in 2009 by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona the firm held onto a surplus of $717.1 million, the study found.
In contrast, the regulations require that the insurer hold in reserve about $1 million.
The newspaper quoted company spokeswoman Regena Frieden as saying, “We believe the amount we have in reserves is appropriate.”
Angela Hult, a spokeswoman for Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon, said the reserves were “essential to protecting our members from surges in claim costs.”
Others view the rate hikes as unnecessary, given the surplus reserves.
“Consumers are struggling … those funds could be used in some cases to mitigate these rate hikes,” said Sondra Roberto, who wrote the study.