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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is giving $101 million in premium refunds

The company says it was able to do this because of lower-than-anticipated costs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mallory Hackett, Associate Editor

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts announced Wednesday that it is returning $101 million in premium refunds and rebates to its members.

The insurer said it is able to do this because of the lower-than-anticipated cost of healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The refunds will be reflected on fully insured employer groups and members' September invoice and will equal 15% of their May 2020 medical premium. For Medicare Advantage members, a one-month "premium holiday" will be granted where they won't be charged that month.

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WHY THIS MATTERS

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on the healthcare industry. While providers have been suffering financially from the added cost of COVID-19 treatment and lack of elective procedures, insurers have saved money from the reduction in claim costs.

Insurers have been refunding money as health plans are mandated to spend at least 80% of their revenues on medical care. When they make more than that, they have to give money back to the purchasers.

The premium refunds will help members who are suffering financially from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

About 30% of households reported having trouble paying their bills during the pandemic, according to a survey from the RAND Corporation.

In April, the U.S. unemployment rate was 14.7%, the highest rate in the history of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That month, 23.1 million people were unemployed.

THE LARGER TREND

BCBS of Massachusetts said it has made several other efforts to lessen the financial impact of the pandemic for its members.

For example, it has covered all medically necessary telehealth services with in-network providers; waived member cost share for COVID-19 testing, counseling and treatment; and removed prior authorizations and referrals for COVID-19 treatments.

Blue Cross in North Carolina is decreasing how much members pay for 90-day supplies of maintenance medications by up to 33% for the rest of the year. The move is intended to ease some of the financial burden consumers have from COVID-19, as well as to prompt people to stay home by receiving a 90-day supply of medications.

Other health insurers helping their customers are Anthem and Harvard Pilgrim. In June, Anthem announced it would be giving eligible members a one-month premium credit ranging from 10% to 15%. Harvard Pilgrim is giving its fully insured employer groups a 15% credit on their September premium invoice and a 15% credit for its Medicare supplement members' September invoice.

ON THE RECORD

"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. "We're giving money back to our customers and members to help provide financial relief during what we know is an incredibly challenging and uncertain time."

Twitter: @HackettMallory
Email the writer: mhackett@himss.org