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Suffolk Superior Court Judge Stephen E. Neel today denied a request by six health insurers to allow them to implement double-digit premium rate increases for tens of thousands of small businesses and individuals. The legal battle was touched off by the insurance division's recent decision to deny most proposed rate increases submitted by insurers for health plans covering individuals and small businesses. In response to the rejections, a half-dozen health insurers filed a lawsuit against the state seeking to reverse the decision by the insurance commissioner to block double-digit premium increases - a ruling they say could leave them with hundreds of millions in losses this year.
In a statement today, Patrick said: "I appreciate the court's decision. It's a welcome decision for small businesses and working families who need immediate relief from excessive and unreasonable increases in their health care costs." An insurance industry spokesman said that he was still studying the decision and had no immediate comment.
Filing the suit were Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state's largest health insurer, and the five commercial members of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans: Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Tufts Health Plan, Fallon Community Health Plan, Health New England, and Neighborhood Health Plan. All are nonprofit carriers.
Last year the salary and bonus paid to Cleve L. Killingsworth, the CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, increased 26 percent to $3.5 million, even though the health insurer's membership declined and its net income fell 49 percent.