For Immediate Release - August 14, 2012

Division of Insurance Approves Lower Blue Cross and Blue Shield Medicare Supplement Rates for 2013

Reduced Medex premium savings benefit 160,000 seniors

BOSTON – Tuesday, August 14, 2012 – The Patrick-Murray Administration's Insurance Commissioner Joseph G. Murphy announced today he has approved Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Inc.'s filing to reduce the premiums of its Medicare supplement plans – offered under the Medex product name – by an overall average of 2.1 percent below 2012 rates.

The lower rates, which went on file Friday, August 10, are another indication that Governor Deval Patrick's cost-containment efforts are working and are reducing the impacts of health care costs on Massachusetts working families.

"Over 160,000 Massachusetts seniors who are customers of Blue Cross Blue Shield will see reductions in their Medicare supplement rates next year," said Commissioner Murphy.

Medicare supplement plans are offered to seniors who are looking for coverage above standard Medicare benefits. Blue Cross and Blue Shield's Medex supplementary plans cover the costs of Medicare deductibles and co-insurance on Medicare-covered hospital stays, doctor visits, home health visits, ambulatory care and prescription drugs.

A decade ago, Medicare supplement insurers were increasing premiums by as much as 9.9 percent annually.

"Medex plans are an essential component of the Medicare system for many seniors," said Barbara Anthony, Undersecretary of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. "These cost reductions are significant, and will certainly make a difference in the budgets of tens of thousands of Massachusetts seniors as they make healthcare choices and decisions."

Governor Patrick has prioritized lowering the cost of health care, and on August 6, 2012 signed into law the next phase of health care reform in Massachusetts, building on the Commonwealth's nation-leading access to care through landmark measures that will lower costs and make quality, affordable care a reality for all Massachusetts residents.

The legislation continues the progress that has already been made, with average base rates falling dramatically in the past three years.  In April 2010, Governor Patrick directed DOI to use existing authority to review small-group health insurance rates and use statutory powers to disapprove rates that were unreasonable or excessive. The Division disapproved 235 of 274 rates at that point, and later negotiated lower rate increases with carriers. In May 2012, DOI announced that small group health insurance base rates increases dropped to 0.7 percent in the third quarter.

In the summer of 2010, the legislature passed and Governor Patrick signed a bill that gave the health care industry new tools to try to deal with rising health care costs. Those measures included expanded review authority for DOI, the creation of group purchasing cooperatives and the creation of limited or tiered network plans that cost subscribers at least 12 percent less than regular plans.

These measures, together with market innovations in integrated care, new cost-sharing models enabled by the federal Affordable Care Act and renegotiated contracts between some insurers and providers, have helped make Massachusetts a recognized leader in controlling health care costs.

The Massachusetts Division of Insurance is an agency within the Patrick-Murray Administration's Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.  Follow the Division at www.mass.gov/doi and at its Twitter feed, @MassDOI.  Follow the Office at www.mass.gov/consumer, its Consumer Connections Blog, on Facebook and at its Twitter feed, @Mass_Consumer.

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