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Blues Help Slow Rise of Insurance Costs

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CHICAGO, Jun 21, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are curbing healthcare premiums and prompting similar behavior among for-profit insurers in the United States.

At the so-called Blues, which dominate the market in 35 states and cover one in three U.S. residents, earnings in 2003 more than doubled, thanks to a rise in premiums of 10 percent to 16 percent, as well as stock market gains on invested capital, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

As a result, the Blues have been under political pressure to limit growth in premiums.

Public officials in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and other states have demanded the Blues in their states roll back premium increases or give rebates to consumers to pare their surplus reserves.

As the Blues have responded to that pressure private insurers have done likewise.

In Maryland, for example, premiums for small employers climbed an average of 5.5 percent in 2003, the smallest increase since 1997, thanks to moderating medical costs and a decision by CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the state's largest insurer, to forgo premium increases on some products this year.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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