Only three people testified at a state insurance hearing yesterday, saying they don't believe Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland deserves to increase its rates on supplemental Medicare insurance policies.
"Blue Cross and Blue Shield do not need a penny more," said one of them, Bernard J. Medairy Jr., a Towson lawyer.
"I cannot afford this," said Joan E. Ancell, a College Park resident who presented her own research on prescription prices to the panel.
The proposed increases of 10.3 percent to 20.9 percent would be applied to the insurance company's four Medigap policies, the Standard, Choice, Basic and Premium plans offered by Blue Cross' Individual Market Division. More than 100,000 elderly and vTC disabled Marylanders are covered by the policies.
Blue Cross had revenues of $1.11 billion last year, of which the Individual Market Division contributed 6 percent.
Mr. Medairy and the other two Blue Cross policyholders who testified at the public hearing yesterday at the state Department of Licensing and Regulation said the company did little to inform policyholders of the hearing, but Blue Cross denied the charge.
Linda Benedict, vice president of the Individual Market Division, said the rate increases are needed to offset higher deductibles passed down by the federal government.
Under federal guidelines that go into effect next year, the deductible for hospital insurance will be raised to $628, a $36 increase, and the deductible for insurance coverage of medical services and surgery will go up $25, to $100. Blue Cross and Blue Shield pays the deductibles for its subscribers and must absorb the increases, company officials say.
According to a chart submitted to Maryland Insurance Commissioner John A. Donaho and his three-member panel, Blue Cross' costs rose 15 percent to 16 percent in the first nine months of the year.
The company also reported that comparisons in the trends of cost and utilization increases show that third-quarter expenses have skyrocketed to as much as 28 percent and 29 percent higher than in the similar period in 1989.
"I am on a fixed income, and this would put my premium alone at $200," she said.