The rate increases come nearly a month after public comments were made to the office by the Rhode Island attorney general’s office. Each year, Attorney General Peter F. Nironha’s office hires independent actuaries to evaluate proposed increases for health insurance companies.
In June, Teague said the proposed price increases demonstrated “the continuing need for shared accountability by insurers and providers to address the core costs of health care in order to enhance affordability for consumers and businesses in Rhode Island.”
During the public comment period, Rhode Islanders expressed outrage at the increases.
“I experienced it with a price increase from [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, Teague said.
Blue Cross Blue Shield, Neighborhood Health, UnitedHealthcare and Tufts Health have introduced market plans for a small group. UnitedHealthcare requested the largest increase of all insurers at 12.3 percent under the HMO plan, and a 10.7 percent increase under their PPO plan — which has been reduced to 5 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively.
Blue Cross Blue Shield, the state’s largest health insurance company with nearly 41,000 people enrolled as of March in their small group plan, requested an 11.7 percent increase and was approved for a 9.7 percent increase.
Five insurers, including Blue Cross Blue Shield, UnitedHealthcare, Tufts HealthPlan, Aetna, and Cigna, offered significant group rates. Each price increase is approved with modifications. Aetna was approved for a 5.4 percent increase, Cigna an increase of 5.7 percent, Blue Cross Blue Shield an increase of 5.9 percent, and an 8 percent increase for the large group plan UnitedHealthcare.
Tufts health plan approved for an 8.8 percent increase in their HMO plan and an 8.9 percent increase in their PPO plan.
“OHIC has the opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to affordable healthcare through the 2023 price reviews by rejecting unnecessary rate increases requested by insurers,” Neronha wrote before agreeing to these rates. “Requests for price increases for this year come at a time when inflation is at its highest level in 40 years…More than 130,088 Rhode Islanders would have another price increase to contend with if a rate increase were approved.”