By ALISON NOON
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A health insurance company will refund roughly $1.7 million to Montana customers who have been forced to pay what the state calls unfairly high prices.
Wisconsin-based Assurant Health finalized a settlement with the state this week agreeing to pay the restitution and a $25,000 fine.
An investigation by Montana’s Insurance Commissioner found Assurant charged lower prices for healthy customers and higher prices for about 1,600 sicker customers with the same coverage.
State law prohibits health insurance companies from imposing higher prices based on any factor other than age.
“Our allegation is that they discriminated against people who were in poor health,” said Jesse Laslovich, deputy state auditor.
The commissioner’s office found Assurant subsidiaries John Alden Life Insurance Co. and Time Insurance Co. offered a “healthy discount” of 10 percent off premiums to Montana policyholders who claimed less than $500 the previous year and completed a questionnaire.
“That $1.7 million, that represents the amount that the other people who didn’t get the discounts should have gotten,” Laslovich said. “These folks don’t know they’re getting a check in the mail, so that’s something we’re excited about.”
The refunds must be sent by Jan. 31, 2016 — one month after Assurant plans to end coverage in Montana.
The company announced in April that it will be leaving the national health insurance market amid declining revenue. Montana customers were notified last month.
Assurant Health’s profit began dropping when the Affordable Care Act was implemented in 2010. The company attributed its projected first-quarter losses of $80 million to $90 million to higher customer claims under the ACA and a reduction in what Assurant could recover through the health law’s risk mitigation programs.