â€œAt a time when people are paying more for their health premiums and getting less, these companies have stockpiled huge assets,â€ said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.Â State law requires Kreidlerâ€™s office to ignore insurer surpluses when reviewing proposed premiums. Kreidler has repeatedly tried to change the law.Â â€œItâ€™s like trying to ignore an elephant in the room,â€ he said. â€œAnd the elephantâ€™s getting bigger.â€
The surpluses have grown dramatically and steadily from around $400 million in 2000 to their current levels.Â Premera Blue Cross has a surplus of $1,015,692,693, according to its most recent quarterly filing with the insurance commissionerâ€™s office and Regence BlueShieldâ€™s surplus is $1,048,103,555.
â€œSome insurance lobbyists like to describe these surpluses as `reserves,â€™â€ said Kreidler. â€œThatâ€™s simply not true. A companyâ€™s surplus is above and beyond what the company has set aside in its reserves.â€Â Kreidler has proposed legislation three times to allow his office to consider surpluses when reviewing rates. The most recent was Substitute Senate Bill 5247, which died in the Senate Rules Committee earlier this year.Â â€œFamilies are clearly struggling to afford insurance,â€ said Kreidler. â€œMore than a million Washingtonians have no health coverage at all. Yet very few people know how much these nonprofit health insurers are sitting on.â€
Kreidler intends to propose the legislation again next year.Â â€œThe larger these surpluses grow, the harder it is to make the case that we should ignore them,â€ he said.