Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans are accused of keeping billions of dollars while raising consumer premiums up to 20 percent.

Consumers Union analyzed 10 of the plans’ finances and found that seven plans held more than three times the amount of surplus cash that regulators consider to be the minimum level needed to protect the plan from insolvency.

Even though insurers are required to keep surplus money to help policyholders pay medical bills if unexpected market conditions develop, BCBS has been hitting consumers with double-digit premium in the past decade.

The report author Sondra Roberto pointed out that consumers are struggling to afford health coverage. He said, “Those funds could be used in some cases to mitigate these rate increases.”

Consumers Union studied non-profit Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, which is voted No. 1 the non-profit consumer group, because they cover one in three Americans with private insurance.

Regena Frieden, spokeswoman for BCBS in Arizona, said the surplus funds are set aside to pay for unexpected health claims and other expenses.
“The amount we have in our reserves equals six months of expenses — an amount that ensures our future stability and ability to provide health care services to our customers,” she said. “Particularly during these times of economic uncertainty and major health policy changes, plans must be sufficiently capitalized in order to maintain service levels in this untested new environment.”