Lone Alaska individual insurer hopes to fix marketplace

There's only one individual health insurer left in Alaska: Premera Alaska. The penultimate insurer left standing, Moda Health, withdrew from the market last week. Now it's up to Premera to save Alaska's individual market, according to Alaska Public Media.

Only 22,000 people are in Alaska's individual market, which isn't enough to support the high-cost medical claims of the state's sickest residents. In addition, Alaska's premium rates have skyrocketed by an average of 70 percent over the past two years, giving the state the highest premium average in the nation.

"We're trying to find ways to spread the risk of the individual market in Alaska to a broader population," said Sheela Tallman, Premera's legislative manager.

But as of late, Premera has been on the losing front. The insurer lost more than $13 million in 2014, and it anticipates losing a similar amount for 2014.

To take action, Premera is hoping to send its high-cost claims to Alaska's high-risk pool — called the Alaska Comprehensive Health Insurance Association — which is "paid for by a tax on employer health plans," according to the report. Premera is currently funding a study to analyze the financial effectiveness of the pool.

In addition, Premera is trying to draw other insurers to the Alaska marketplace. "What we're proposing in Alaska, in the reinsurance program, we want to make it more attractive for carriers to come in," said Melanie Coon, a spokeswoman for Premera. "So if things stabilize and the market gets more attractive, that can really help consumer choice."

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