Both Independent Health and HealthNow NY received approvals this week from the state Department of Financial Services on proposed rates for 2013.
Independent Health customers enrolled in community-rated programs will see premium increases of 5.25 percent; while increases at BlueCross BlueShield of WNY, part of HealthNow, will average 8 percent.
Both companies said their actuarial teams have worked hard to keep rates as low as possible given the realities of rising health-care costs and the region's aging population.
Steve Swift, executive vice president and chief financial officer at HealthNow NY, pointed to high levels of chronic disease in the community and rising costs from the physician and health systems that force increases every year.
"We take this process extremely seriously," he said. "Our objective has been and continues to be to deliver effective products that are high quality and low cost to the market. We only look to rate increases to the extent those are necessary and absolutely essential because of the cost of the products."
But rather than fight with the providers, the company is now working to engage both consumers and the health providers to make changes in lifestyle and behaviors, while better managing conditions through wellness plans.
Swift said the company has also worked hard to streamline its product offerings, with nine medical plans and four prescription drug plans available for 2013, down from 13 medical plans and nine drug plans last year.
"It's not about reducing choice so much as simplifying their world," he said.
Health insurers were required to file their proposed rates for 2013 this July under the state's Prior Approval law, which allows the DFS to modify rates if regulators disagreed with health insurer justifications on increases. The region's three major insurers proposed rate increases for most large-group HMO plans between 4.9 percent and 9.8 percent. Those in small-group plans, experience-rated groups and self-insured plans will see varying rate increases depending on past claims and other factors.
Nationally, PricewaterhouseCoopers projected increases tied to medical-cost trends of 7.5 percent for 2013 based on the costs of prescription drugs, medical devices, technology, administration and other factors.
Nora McGuire, chief marketing officer at Independent Health, said in a statement the company's premium adjustments for 2013 are among the lowest in several years. She credited the implementation of innovative initiatives and programs for helping to temper rising medical cost trends.
She pointed to new partnerships with primary care physicians like The Primary Connection, designed to deliver more patient-centered, coordinated care for members; and efforts to join forces with Catholic Health and Catholic Medical Partners on products for large and small group employers."
"Although we are seeing progress in lowering the medical cost trend, we are committed to maintaining a laser focus on initiatives that continue to improve quality and lower costs," she said. "The fact the Department approved our rates with minimal or no changes is evidence of our consistent and accurate rating and underwriting approach."
Proposed rates are still under review for Univera Healthcare and its Rochester-based parent company, Excellus Health. The insurer filed for premium changes of 5.7 percent to 7.7 percent for its small-group ActiveUnivera plans; with reductions of 3.4 percent for some community-rated products.