N.D. Blues Announce 9.3 Percent Increase for Individual Purchasers

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota has announced a 9.3 percent rate increase, starting next month, for individual health care policies.

“The rate increase that we’re putting into effect is to cover the expected claims cost over the next 12 months,” Blues spokesman Larry Gauper said.

“The use of services and the number of services continues to escalate,” Gauper said. “At the same time, Medicare reimbursement is sometimes adjusted downward.”

Gauper said North Dakota’s aging population means more use of health care, but he said premiums for North Dakotans are still rising less than they are in surrounding states.

The Blues, North Dakota’s largest insurer, negotiates with health care providers to try to keep medical inflation in check, Gauper said.

The Blues refunded $26 million to about 150,000 policyholders last year, after the company’s financial reserves topped targeted levels. Gauper said some people now are asking why the premiums are going up after that refund.

“Those reserves are meant to cover unexpected claims expenses _ things we don’t see at all,” Gauper said. The reserves also are to protect members and keep the plan financially sound, he said.