RI health insurers plan double-digit rate hikes

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island's headquarters in Providence.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s commercial health insurers are hoping to increase rates by double-digits for large employers next year, according to the R.I. Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner.

Health Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Hittner said she was “disappointed” by the requests.

“Businesses in the state cannot sustain escalating health care expenses at this rate,” she said. “I have instructed my staff to critically evaluate every detail and assumption behind the proposed rates. We will be publishing more information on the drivers of the proposed increases in the coming weeks.”

Large employers are generally defined as those with 51 or more workers, and account for slightly more than half of all enrollment in Rhode Island’s private health insurance market. Proposed rate increases for small employers and individuals are due June 16, and the commissioner’s office is aiming to finalize rates by Aug. 1.

“The proposed rate increases represent an average, so there will be a range of rate changes around that average that groups will face,” Cory King, principal policy associate in the commissioner’s office, noted in an email.

Blue Cross spokeswoman Gail Carvelli said her company’s 11.9% proposed increase includes a 2.2% Affordable Care Act fee as well as a “detailed analysis of medical trends (both utilization and cost).” Blue Cross lost $35 million in 2016.

“BCBSRI will continue to actively collaborate and invest across the complex health care system to address the drivers of rising costs,” Carvelli said. “And, our efforts will remain focused on the ‘triple aim’ of better health for our state, a simpler patient experience and lower costs.”

Spokeswomen for United and Tufts declined to comment on their requests.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook