Wellmark's 13% proposed rate faces strong public opposition

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Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield wants to raise premiums in Iowa, but the public is strongly urging the state insurance department to deny the rate hike.

The state's largest insurer wants to increase premiums by as much as 13 percent on 150,000 individual policyholders in April, after it already raised premiums several times in the last few years, including a 9.35 percent hike in 2012 and an 8.5 percent increase in 2011, according to the Associated Press.

But hundreds of Iowans are hoping to persuade Iowa Insurance Commissioner Susan Voss to reject this latest round of premium increases, pleading with her through messages posted to the department's website.

Some of the almost 250 customers who wrote to Voss called Wellmark's rate request "highway robbery" and "nonsense." Others said the cost of health insurance is "bleeding me dry makes it very hard to survive," reported the Des Moines Register.

Although Wellmark sympathizes with its customers, the company said the increase is necessary to pay for the rising use of medical services and the growing cost of treating chronic conditions, including obesity-related health problems, Wellmark Vice President Laura Jackson told the Register.

What's more, she added, Wellmark customers frequently receive routine care at the Mayo Clinic, which costs the insurer twice as much as the same treatment provided locally. \

Wellmark also has been taking steps to hold down healthcare costs, including forming accountable care organizations and launching its "Blue Zones" initiative. "We feel like we're doing as much as we can, given the role we play in this industry," Jackson said. "But we also know at the end of the day, it's still not enough."

To learn more:
- read the Associated Press article
- see the Des Moines Register article

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