September 27, 2022


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Health insurance companies in R.I. request steep rate hikes for 2022

PROVIDENCE — Health insurance companies in Rhode Island are asking the state to approve steep rate increases that would begin in 2022.

The Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner released Monday afternoon the individual, small, and large group market premium rates requested by the state’s insurers. Requested rate increases ranged from less than 3 percent to nearly 20 percent.

“I am concerned by many of the requested premium increases,” said state Health Insurance Commissioner Patrick M. Tigue. “Recently, health insurers have generated substantial profits as a result of the reduction in medical services experienced during the coronavirus disease 2019 public health emergency.”

The office will accept public comment on the proposed rates through Aug. 6 in writing, and will also hear public comment at a virtual town hall on Aug. 2.

Tigue added, “My office will scrutinize the requested increases and critically evaluate the necessity of significant increases, given the overall financial health of the insurers.”

Tigue’s decision whether to approve, modify, or reject these rates are expected to be announced in mid-to-late August.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) and Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island (NHPRI) requested plans to be sold on the individual market for people who do not receive insurance through their employer. Blue Cross requested a 3.1 percent rate increase into the next year, and Neighborhood requested a 8.5 percent increase.

“Contributing to the increases are the cost and number of healthcare services and prescription drugs used by BCBSRI members,” said Gail Carvelli, the spokeswoman for Blue Cross, in an emailed statement to the Globe. “The proposed rates reflect a return to normal levels of pre-pandemic utilization.”

BCBSRI, NHPRI, UnitedHealthcare, and Tufts Health plan all filed small group market plans.

UnitedHealthcare requested the largest increase among all insurers at 17.5 percent under their HMO plan and a 10.7 percent rate increase under their PPO plan.

“Our requested rates reflect the underlying costs of providing care, including utilization of heath care services and the cost of that medical care, including physician, hospital, pharmaceutical and diagnostic costs,” said Maria Gordon Shydlo, a spokeswoman for UnitedHealthcare, in an emailed statement Monday night. “Our goal in pricing is to match expected medical cost increases with premiums, while helping patients and employers access the most appropriate quality care while holding down costs.”

Blue Cross requested the smallest rate increase at 2.9 percent.

Five insurers, which included BCBSRI, UnitedHealthcare, Tufts Health Plan, Aetna, and Cigna, filed large group rates. United Healthcare requested the highest rate increase at 14.1 percent while Cigna requested the lowest rate increase at 5.3 percent.

Cory King, a policy director in Tigue’s office, said OHIC will review all pricing assumptions, administrative charges, and other information to “assess the reasonability of the premium requests by each insurer.”

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz.