PROVIDENCE – In the aftermath of a pandemic that not only caused a toll physically but also financially on many Rhode Islanders, a state official is putting his foot down against the scale of health insurance rate increases proposed by the providers in the state’s individual, small group and large group markets.
R.I. Health Insurance Commissioner Patrick Tigue announced on Thursday that he rejected rate increases attributed to charges for profits and contributions to company reserves in the proposed 2022 insurance rates that were filed recently by insurance companies with the R.I. Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner. The reductions in proposed rate increases ranged from 0.5 percentage points to 9.7 percentage points.
In one case, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island’s small group market plan rates will decline 0.3% for 40,255 members, adjusted down from a request for a 2.9% increase.
“As Rhode Islanders confront significant threats to their health and financial well-being due to the spread of COVID-19, my responsibility is to limit the burden of the cost of health insurance within the standards for review and approval set forth by law,” said Tigue, in a statement released late Thursday morning. “Given the strong reserve positions of health insurers operating in the state, I did not believe that charges for profit and contributions to reserves for 2022 were consistent with the proper conduct of the insurers’ business or consistent with the public interest.”
Some of the biggest cuts to proposed rates affected UnitedHealthcare, which requested a 17.5 % increase in rates for the small group market for its HMO plan and a 10.7 % increase for its PPO plan, cut down to a 7.8% increase and a 1.3% increase, respectively.
For individual market plans, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island saw its proposed rate increase of 8.5% reduced to a 3.5% increase for its 24,866 policy holders in that market.
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island saw its individual market plans rate increase drop from a proposed 3.1% to nearly no increase at all, a 0.1% increase.
“The cost of health care goods and services, what consumers and insurers pay doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and other providers remain the major driver of insurance rate increases and consumer out-of-pocket spending,” Tigue said. “Consumers, employers, government, payers, and providers all must continue to prioritize efforts to make health care as affordable as possible.”
Tigue’s decision to reject higher rates, while approving moderate increase, was applauded by Gov. Daniel J. McKee.
“As the economic recovery gains momentum, I am committed to guarding the safety and financial well-being of all Rhode Islanders,” McKee said. “The decision to reject charges for profit and contributions to reserves in the 2022 insurance rates is critical as is continued action to improve health care affordability. These actions by my administration are necessary to maintain a healthy Rhode Island and vibrant economy with thriving small businesses.”
The rate reductions were estimated to have saved Rhode Island rate payers a combined $41.7 million in 2022 compared to what commercial health insurers requested, OHIC said.
Marc Larocque is a PBN staff writer. Contact him at [email protected].
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