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Lt. Gov. Roberts: Approved Blue Cross Direct-Pay Rate Hike Still Unaffordable for Rhode Islanders

PROVIDENCE- Lt. Gov. Elizabeth H. Roberts today spoke out against the ruling by the Office of Health Insurance Commissioner approving an average 7% increase for direct-pay plans by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island.

“I am encouraged that the Health Insurance Commissioner used his statutory power to minimize the impact of the proposed rate hike,” Roberts said. “However, while I applaud the Health Insurance Commissioner’s careful consideration of affordability in the rate review and his reduction of the 9.5% increase, the approved 7% increase is a tremendous financial burden for Rhode Islanders fighting for economic survival. This rate hike will severely impact the self-employed, small business owners, and individuals who have no access to insurance through their employers or who have lost their jobs. I fear many will see health insurance becoming simply too expensive – and they will have nowhere else to turn.”

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island initially submitted a rate increase filing to the Office of Health Insurance Commissioner proposing a 10.2% increase. In written testimony submitted to the public hearing on the proposed rate increase, Lt. Gov. Roberts requested that the application for the increase be rejected. On the last day of the public hearing, Blue Cross and the Office of the Attorney General reached a stipulated agreement approving a 9.5% increase for direct-pay plans. The Office of Health Insurance Commissioner today announced that it had overruled the 9.5% agreement and reduced the rate increase to 7%. Commissioner Koller lowered the increase citing the need to “enhance the affordability of health care coverage.”

“The continuing unaffordable and unsustainable health insurance rate increase requests will only multiply if we do not address the underlying escalating costs of health care,” Roberts added. “Even as we oppose these increases, we must at the same time concentrate aggressively on controlling the costs of health care and make it the focus of our implementation of health care reform in Rhode Island. I am committed to working with all stakeholders to bend the cost curve downward. This month I will intensify the public effort, convened with the Rhode Island Foundation, Making It Work: Health Reform in Rhode Island, that will result in a plan to responsibly bring down the costs of health care. Rhode Islanders deserve a system that delivers high quality of care at a price they can afford.”

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