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Blue Cross cuts rate request for small business, individuals

Average increase in Mass. at 0.7%

Average base rate health insurance premium increases for small business and individual policies renewing in the third quarter have been revised to 0.7 percent - even smaller than the 1.2 percent average reported earlier this week, Massachusetts regulators said Thursday.

The downward revision came because Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state’s largest health insurance company, refiled its rate request in the so-called small-group market, which serves small companies along with self-employed and formerly uninsured individual policy holders.

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Blue Cross Blue Shield, based in Boston, initially asked for base rate hikes of 1.2 percent for its HMO business and 2.7 percent for its non-HMO insurance.

Under its revised request, approved by the state Division of Insurance, the insurer sought premium increases of 0.2 percent for its HMO business and 1.4 percent for its non-HMO business.

That was enough to lower the state’s overall average premium hike for the July-to-September period.

“We are trying to be as competitive as we can in this market,’’ said Jay McQuaide, senior vice president for Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Insurance regulators approved average base rate increases of 3.1 percent in the HMO market and 3 percent in the non-HMO market for rival Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, of Wellesley.

They approved requests for average base rate decreases of 1.3 percent in the HMO market and 2.2 percent in the non-HMO market for Tufts Health Plan of Watertown, and decreases of 2.2 percent in the HMO market and 2 percent in the non-HMO market for Worcester-based Fallon Community Health Plan.

The base rates apply to thousands of customers in the small-group market. Many customers pay more because of additional factors such as geography, type of business, industry sector, and age of the workforce.

Robert Weisman can be reached at weisman@globe.com.
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