Health insurers are calling the state for a steep rise in health insurance premiums in 2023, citing increased visits and higher health care costs.
The proposed premium increases must go through the Health Insurance Commissioner’s Office, which makes the final decision on the size of the increase, if any, that will allow insurers to impose their plans.
Cory King, chief of staff at the health commissioner’s office, said the proposed increases are the largest he has seen in eight years of working for the commission.
Insurance premiums for plans purchased on the state’s individual market, HealthSource RI, are proposed to increase 9.6% for Rhode Island’s Blue Cross Blue Shield and 6.8% for Rhode Island’s Neighborhood Health Plan.
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For small business plans, the proposed increases are 11.7% for Blue Cross, 9.3% for the Neighborhood Health Plan, between 10.8% and 12.3% for UnitedHealthcare, and 10% 9.2% for Tufts.
For the largest group, the largest employers, Blue Cross proposed a 7% increase, UnitedHealthcare an 11.3% increase, Tufts a 10.4% increase, Aetna a 13.4% increase. and Cigna an increase of 8.5%.
What is driving demands from insurers to raise premiums?
This year, requests for premium increases have been driven by pent-up and “recovered” demand for health care, as procedures and surgeries were postponed or canceled during the pandemic.
We add inflation, which affects the cost of supplies and prescription drugs, and health insurers say premiums must rise to cover their costs.
King said the commissioner’s office always finds reasonable ways to reduce the premium increases proposed by insurers.
“We can’t just make things up, because insurers can appeal the decision we made, regardless of whether we obeyed the laws,” King said.
Who is affected by the proposed tariff increases?
Whatever the final increase, if any, the commissioner approves will affect 172,746 people, or 16% of Rhode Island’s population, though some likely live in other states and work for Rhode Island companies.
The proposed increases would affect the 42,658 people in the individual market, 47,433 people with small employer plans and 82,655 people with large employer plans.
According to 2019 census data, 4% of Rhode Island residents reported that they did not have health insurance.
In all, 52% of residents have employer-sponsored health coverage and another 38% have insurance through Medicare, Medicaid, or the military, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Many companies that provide health insurance either bear the cost of insurance on their own or pay for the plans in other states, King said.
Last year, Attorney General Peter Neronha opposed the proposed tariff hikes, between 2.9% and 17.5%, on the grounds that some plans would become unsustainable. State commissioner for health insurance Patrick M. Tigue approved the insurance rates that significantly reduced those increases.
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King said insurance companies didn’t have to pay as much last year because people didn’t go to doctors or access health care as often.
Public commentary is open until 12 July
Public comments will be accepted through July 12 via email to [email protected] The commissioner’s office will take comments during a virtual town hall, from 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm on July 7th.
“We appreciate when the public comments, because it helps us build our thesis on why premiums should be lower and what the impact of these increases is,” said King. “It’s useful evidence to incorporate into our trial.”
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Reach out to reporter Wheeler Cowperthwaite at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @WheelerReporter.