Blue Cross issuing $101m in premium refunds

Cites lower costs from reduced elective procedures

CITING LOWER COSTS during the COVID-19 pandemic, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts said on Wednesday it will return $101 million in premium refunds and rebates to 1.2 million customers.

“Since many elective procedures and routine visits have been deferred during the pandemic, our medical costs during the second quarter were lower than we originally anticipated,” said Andrew Dreyfus, president and CEO of Blue Cross, in a statement. “We’re giving money back to our customers and members.”

Blue Cross has 2.8 million members, but 1.6 million of them work for companies that self-insure and are already paying out less due to the downturn in medical spending. Another 700,000 members work for employers fully insured by Blue Cross, and those employers will receive credits on their September invoice equal to 15 percent of their May 2020 premium. The remaining 500,000 members, those who are part of small groups, with individual coverage, or on a Medicare program, will receive one month of coverage without paying a premium.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

In June, Harvard Pilgrim announced it was issuing $30 million in credits to its fully-insured employer groups and a 15 percent credit worth a total of $2 million to individuals covered under its Medicare plans. UnitedHealth Group also issued premium credits.

Health insurers are required under the Affordable Care Act to spend at least 88 percent of their premium money on medical claims filed by individuals and small groups and 85 percent for large groups. Under state regulations, insurers would not be required to issue refunds if they spend less than that percentage until mid-2021.

“We commend the health insurance companies that have already issued premium rebates to their members instead of waiting until next year when they will be required to do so. It’s our hope that any other Massachusetts health insurers who haven’t already done so will try to reimburse their members as soon as they can,” said Emalie Gainey, a spokesperson for Attorney General Maura Healey.