Q&A: Premera CEO is optimistic about Alaska health insurance rates

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Alaska’s health care costs are still soaring, but an insurance executive is optimistic about rates on the state’s individual insurance market.

Jeff Roe, CEO of Washington-based Premera (which serves Washington and Alaska), spoke last week at the Anchorage Economic Development Corp.’s annual three-year economic forecast luncheon.

Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska is the sole insurer in Alaska’s individual market, after Moda Health exited the individual market last year.

Roe sat down with ADN to talk about health coverage in Alaska. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Can you tell me about how you were able to (lower rates this year in Alaska), and what’s going to happen with rates in the future?

There was a lot of uncertainty when the individual market was really created through the Affordable Care Act. Nobody knew who was really going to be in that pool. … As a consequence of not having scale, whenever there’s high-cost claims, it really has a disproportionate impact on the pool as a whole. It pushes rates up for everybody.

What the state did is … creating a pool, a high-risk pool. … So if you take out a good portion of those really high-cost claims, for everybody else the premiums are going to come down.

That happened for 2018, and we’ve filed our rates now for 2019. We’ll see, they haven’t been approved yet, so it’s premature for me to say what they’ll be. But we’re optimistic that the experience will continue to be good and that rates will be stable, at worst.

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