Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Report: Claims cost of individual health insurance in WA likely to rise 13.7 percent by 2017

A new report by the Society of Actuaries predicts that medical claims costs for individual health insurance plans -- meaning coverage that people have to buy on their own, rather than get through an employer or government program -- will rise 13.7 percent in Washington by 2017. That's substantially less than in many other states.

About 300,000 Washingtonians now buy their own insurance on the individual market. That number's expected to increase sharply next year as people who are now uninsured start buying coverage.

It's too soon at this point to say what the final rates will be. We don't expect to see the first rate proposals for these policies until next month, and premiums include more than just medical claims costs.

There is, however, some good news for many of these folks. The report does not attempt, for example, to factor in the federal subsidies that many people in the individual market will qualify for, starting in January. Under federal health care reform, a family of four earning up to $94,200 could qualify for help paying for their insurance.

Also, under health care reform, the vast majority of policies will cover much more than they do today. It's rare, for example, to find an individual health plan that covers prescription drugs. Many don't cover the birth of a child. Starting in January, most policies will have to cover those things and more.

Lastly, the sad fact is that the individual health insurance market is no stranger to big increases in rates. In 2009 -- well before health care reform -- those policies in Washington rose an average of 16.5 percent. That's in a single year. And the year before that was even worse: an average increase of 18 percent.

Tacoma man arrested for insurance fraud

A 24-year-old man facing multiple charges in an insurance fraud case was arrested this morning by the King County Warrant Team at a residence in Tacoma.

Andre Romeo Zamora Sarmiento was charged last year with second-degree theft, forgery and insurance fraud for allegedly filing altered and fake medical bills after a car accident. He failed to appear for arraignment on Dec. 24, 2012, resulting in the warrant that led to his arrest this morning.

The fraud case involves a November 2011 auto collision in Tacoma. A car turned in front of Zamora's car, cutting him off, and leading to the crash.

Zamora subsequently filed a claim with the other driver's insurer for injuries to his back and $2,542 for vehicle damage to his vehicle. For the medical claims, Zamora filed several bills totalling $14,857.

A subsequent investigation by our anti-fraud Special Investigations Unit revealed that several bills were altered and grossly inflated. A bill for $360, for example, had a "9" added, to make it look like a bill for $9,360. A bill for $33.50 was turned into what looked like a bill for $3,358.80.

All told, Zamora submitted claims for $13,236 more than he actually paid. The insurer paid Zamora $5,497 before discovering that the bills were fraudulent.