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State approves Highmark SpecialCare rate hike

| Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2011

The state Insurance Department this week approved a 4.9 percent rate increase on a Highmark Inc. health insurance plan for people who can't get insurance anywhere else.

Highmark, the state's largest insurer, requested a 9.9 percent increase to its SpecialCare plan in July, but then reduced the request to 4.9 percent last month in response to public pressure.

Some 16,600 people in Western Pennsylvania are covered under the plan, which currently costs $162 a month. After the increase, which takes effect Jan. 1, the plan will cost about $170 a month.

SpecialCare is one of five "guaranteed-issue" plans offered by Highmark to individuals in Western Pennsylvania who don't receive insurance through their employer and can't get coverage from other insurers because they have chronic medical conditions.

Highmark has said it spent $98.9 million to subsidize its guaranteed-issue plans over the past two years and that premiums don't cover the full cost of providing the coverage.

SpecialCare was developed after the state cancelled its adultBasic plan early this year. That state-subsidized plan for working people who couldn't get insurance anywhere else cost $36 a month.

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