PRC re-examines rate hike

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NMPRC wants another meeting on the rate increases approved last month

By Associated Press

SANTA FE — The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission wants to hold another hearing on the rate increases approved last month for customers of Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

Commissioner Jerome Block Jr. asked his colleagues on Thursday to set a new hearing and vacate the agreement with the PRC’s Insurance Division that would raise health insurance rates for some customers by more than 21 percent.

PRC Chief of Staff Johnny Montoya said Friday the commission itself does not have jurisdiction to vacate the agreement.

The commission voted to send a letter to insurance superintendent Tom Rushton to vacate the document and conduct another hearing on the increase called for by the settlement.

The increase, retroactive to April 1, affects about 40,000 people.

The agreement was signed less than an hour before a hearing scheduled to give critics a chance to talk about the plan.

PRC Commissioner Jason Marks has called the settlement a backroom deal.

The division, the company, the state attorney general’s office and insurance customer Jody Neal-Post signed the settlement.

Montoya said Rushton, representing the PRC staff, was involved in the agreement, so he could not conduct a new hearing. The commission will have to see what the law says about the possibility of appointing a hearing examiner, Montoya said.

State Insurance Superintendent Morris Chavez resigned a week after the agreement was announced, saying he and his family were targeted by “sad and derogatory” online comments after the contentious case.

Chavez, who said he learned of the settlement during a conference 45 minutes before the hearing, had argued that the division heard protests over the increase and that the settlement would end up saving consumers millions of dollars.

Blue Cross said it lost $20 million on the type of policies in question during the past three years and lost $11.1 million on all operations in 2009 — data its attorney said supported a 36.9 percent increase.