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Medical premiums will increase an average 20.3 percent next year for Blue Shield subscribers and 10.9 percent for Blue Cross users.

Both increases, announced late Friday by state insurance regulators, are larger than what Western New York's two primary insurance carriers had sought.

Blue Shield had asked for an average 17.1 percent increase for all its products. Blue Cross had requested 6 percent.

The increases will take effect Tuesday for more than 600,000 families in the region.

The dollar increases for specific Blue Shield and Blue Cross contracts and riders were not available Friday.

A formal explanation of why the state approved higher increases for both non-profit companies is not expected until the state Insurance Department formally announces the rate hikes Monday.

State officials, however, are expected to point to financial losses at both Blue Cross and Blue Shield as the reason.

Even with the rate increase requested by Blue Cross, the state estimated the insurer would experience a $27.6 million loss in 1991 -- $17.7 million for Blue Cross and $9.9 million for Community Blue, its health maintenance organization.

But Blue Cross argued it could cover the loss with reserves and still end the year with a $30 million surplus.

Blue Shield, which reported a $6.5 million loss in 1989, asked for a much higher increase than did Blue Cross as part of a plan to bring its reserves up to a
level equal to 5.5 to 12.5 percent of their annual net subscriber premiums, as required by state law.

The state last year approved average increases of 20.1 percent for Blue Cross and 22.8 percent for Blue Shield.

Earlier Friday, state regulators announced increases of 7.6 to 13.1 percent more for the region's three health maintenance organizations.

In one case, the increase was higher than what the insurer sought.

Community Blue, the HMO owned by Blue Cross, received an average increase of 8.3 percent, up from the 1.2 percent increase the company requested. Like its parent, Community Blue was projecting an underwriting loss even with its requested increase.

The area's two other HMO's also received increases, but both were lower than requested.

Independent Health asked for a 7.9 percent hike but received 7.6 percent. Health Care Plan asked for 13.7 percent and received 13.1 percent.

In dollars and cents, the HMO increases mean:

Community Blue members will pay $100.15 a month for single coverage, up from $92.81. Family coverage will increase from $250.61 to $270.41.

Independent Health members will pay $86.94 a month for Gold Plan single coverage, up from $81.46. Family coverage will increase from $220.35 to $235.17.

Health Care Plan members will pay $90.47 a month for basic single coverage, up from $79.50. Family coverage will increase from $204.32 to $232.51.

Insurers have argued that increases are necessary because health care costs are rising and will continue to rise.

They attribute the spiraling costs to increased use of medical services, new and expensive technology, increased physician fees, the practice of defensive medicine to avoid malpractice lawsuits, an aging population and unhealthy lifestyles.

Independent Health received an average 14.5 percent increase last year. Community Blue went up 19.7 percent in June 1989 and 8.1 percent last January. Also last January, Health Care Plan rates increased 15.1 percent.

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