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Health Insurance Giant In Limbo

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By David Schultz

Commissioner Ralph Tyler is leaving office on Friday, but his spokesperson says he's determined to decide before then what to do with the cash reserves of health insurance giant CareFirst.

The issue at hand is whether the not-for-profit provider is holding too much cash - in which case Tyler can order it to lower premiums - or whether it doesn't have enough.

An independent audit found the latter, which might prompt Tyler to allow the company to raise premiums.

Tyler's decision could also affect CareFirst customers elsewhere in the region.

The District's insurance regulator, Gennet Purcell, is conducting a similar investigation into CareFirst's subsidiary in D.C. She's waiting for Tyler to act before she makes her decision.

But the Maryland audit also looked at D.C. and found the reserves there to be on the high end.

Whatever Tyler and Purcell decide, the stakes are high: hundreds of millions of dollars and more than three million CareFirst policy holders in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

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