The rate increases come after nearly a month of public comments submitted to the office for review by the Rhode Island Attorney General’s office. Each year, Attorney General Peter F. Neronha’s office hires independent actuaries to assess increases proposed by health insurance companies.
In June, Tigue said the proposed rate increases demonstrated the “continued need for shared responsibility by insurers and providers to address underlying health care costs to promote affordability for consumers and Rhode Island businesses”.
During a public comment period, Rhode Islanders expressed outrage at the increases.
“I’m pretty much fed up with the rate increases [Blue Cross Blue Shield,” wrote Mark De Binder in an email to OHIC. He said his and his wife’s plan has gone from $800 to $2,400 per month since 2012. “And we don’t have any un-normal health situations.”
Clay Moore, a sales and business development manager, said all Rhode Islanders are facing “excessive increases” in gas prices, rent, property taxes, groceries, and utility bills, and it is “unconscionable to raise” rates.
Neronha told the Globe in a statement Wednesday that there appears to be a “presumption” by most insurers that their rates must go up every year, regardless of prevailing economic and other conditions.
“If healthcare costs are rising, it is the public alone who must bear the full weight of those rising costs,” said Neronha in his statement. “And it is a clever game that these insurers play. They typically ask for the moon, recognizing that they are likely to get less, yet secure in the knowledge that the lesser amount they are virtually guaranteed to receive will nevertheless be an enormous win.”
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island and Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island requested plans to be sold on the individual market for people who do not receive insurance through their employer. Blue Cross Blue Shield requested a 9.6 percent rate increase, but was approved for a 3.1 percent rate increase into the next year. Neighborhood requested a 6.8 percent increase, but after the Attorney General’s office recommended a 9.8 percent increase, Tigue approved a 8.2 percent increase — which will impact the more than 25,000 people enrolled in the plan.
Brian Hodge, a spokesman in the Attorney General’s office, said Neronha urged Tigue to “deny all requested increases, except for Neighborhood’s in the individual market.”
“This year, like last year and the year before, we advocated that OHIC use its discretion to deny the requested premium increases. We did this, despite our own retained actuaries’ analysis, because I believe they are nevertheless not justified given current, overall economic conditions,” said Neronha in his statement to the Globe. “The only exception was a single instance where, based on our actuaries’ opinion, an increase to Neighborhood’s rates in the individual market was necessary to ensure the company’s solvency and thereby maintain consumer choice in that market.
Last year, Tigue approved a 3.5 percent rate increase for Neighborhoods individual market plans.
“My office has conducted a thorough review of the rate filings, public input, and considered the actuarial recommendations provided by the [Attorney General’s office] in all markets,” Tigue said.
Blue Cross Blue Shield, Neighborhood Health, UnitedHealthcare and Tufts Health plan all filed breakout market plans. UnitedHealthcare requested the largest increase of any insurer at 12.3% under their HMO plan and a 10.7% rate increase under their PPO plan, which were reduced to 5% and 3 .5%, respectively.
Blue Cross Blue Shield, the state’s largest health insurer with nearly 41,000 people enrolled in their small group plan in March, requested an 11.7% increase and was approved for a 9.7 increase. %.
Five insurers, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, UnitedHealthcare, Tufts Health Plan, Aetna and Cigna, have filed significant group rates. Each has been approved for rate increases, with modifications. Aetna was approved for a 5.4% increase, Cigna a 5.7% increase, Blue Cross Blue Shield a 5.9% increase, and an 8% increase for UnitedHealthcare’s large group plan.
Tufts’ health plan was approved for an 8.8% increase for its HMO plan and 8.9% for its PPO plan.
In a memo in early August, Neronha reminded Tigue of its June commitment to “rigorously” review these proposed rates.
“OHIC has the opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to affordable health care with the 2023 rate revisions by rejecting unnecessary rate increases sought by insurers,” Neronha wrote ahead of those rates’ approval. “This year’s rate increase demands come at a time when inflation is at a 40-year high… More than 130,088 Rhodeans will face another price increase if rate increases are approved.”
Alexa Gagosz can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.
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