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The state Insurance Department has approved rate increases for Community Blue's basic contracts and prescription drug coverage.

Blue Cross of Western New York, owner of the 142,000-member health maintenance organization, announced Friday the new rates would take effect June 1 and will remain in effect through Dec. 31. The basic contract will increase an average 19.7 percent and prescription drug coverage an average 27.6 percent.

The state last granted Community Blue an average 20 percent rate increase on July 1, 1988. That was expected to last through June 30, but Community Blue said it had to seek a rate increase a month early.

Blue Cross officials attributed the rate hikes to increased hospital costs, increased use of medical services and increased salaries for nurses, emergency room physicians and diagnostic services.

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