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Monday, July 11 2022

Each year, small group insurance carriers in Washington state must submit their requested rate increases to Washington’s Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC).  Small group insurance plans are for employers who had 50 or fewer employees on average during the calendar year prior to the effective (or renewal) date of the plan.  

Unfortunately, there are more two digit increases requested for 2023 than in 2022.  Why? The pandemic.  Many insurance companies are asking for higher rate increases on renewals due to lagging COVID-related claims, COVID test kits, a higher medical and prescription drug trend, and overall inflation.  Additional factors impacting small group rates include:

  • Some care deferred during the pandemic returned - Healthcare spending by employers in 2021 was lower than expected, in large part because of the deferral of care as a result of the pandemic. 
  • COVID costs are likely to persist - The costs of testing for COVID, treating patients and administering vaccinations for the disease likely will continue into 2023.
  • The mental health and substance use crises show no signs of waning - The pandemic substantially increased demand for mental health services. Increased substance use also likely will increase healthcare spending in 2023.
  • Population health worsened during the pandemic - Poor pandemic-era health behaviors such as lack of exercise, poor nutrition, increased substance use and smoking has led to an increase in healthcare spending and medical trend.  Medical trend is defined as the projected percentage increase in the cost to treat patients from one year to the next, assuming benefits remain the same.

There are two insurance companies who asked for double digit increases to their small group, age-banded rates:  Kaiser of WA (+10.2%) and Premera Blue Cross of WA (+11.5%).  These increase requests are based upon each carrier's gain or loss at the end of 2021.  Kaiser has a $10.3M deficit and Premera's was $1.6M.

It will take a few months for the OIC to review and approve the requested increases, but if you're with Kaiser of WA or Premera for small group, it may be time to shop around.  Need help? Contact us. We can help find alternative affordable plans.

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