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Lt. Gov. Roberts: Approved Rate Hikes for Businesses from State's Health Insurers 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 increases ranging from 6% to nearly 10% for large and small group employer plans by the state’s health insurers.

“Rate increases at any level are putting Rhode Islanders’ jobs and health at risk,” said Roberts. “Businesses large and small, struggling to recover from the Great Recession, are now going to be choosing between hiring new workers and keeping health insurance. Our state cannot afford to have employers making that choice, especially as the number of uninsured Rhode Islanders continues to climb.” A report commissioned by Lt. Gov. Roberts and The Rhode Island foundation released this week found that 1 in 5 Rhode Islanders will be without health coverage at some point this year.

Roberts continued, “For 18 months, Rhode Island small businesses and families have been sitting down and looking at their expenses to see where there might be savings. It is time for Rhode Island’s health care system to do the same thing.”

A number of legislative initiatives have been introduced to address the rising costs of care in the state, including models to better manage high-cost chronic diseases like diabetes and congestive heart failure, as well as proposals to increase oversight of hospital reimbursements.

“I am fully confident that we can improve the affordability of health care by changing the way health care providers are paid,” said Roberts. “And I am committed to working with all stakeholders to bend the cost curve downward as I continue the public effort, in partnership 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.”

The Office of Health Insurance Commissioner approved increases by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island of 9.8% for small groups (50 employees or less), and 9.9% for large groups. Blue Cross had requested increases of 11.4% and 14.6% for small and large groups. United Health Care of New England and United Health Insurance Company were granted approval of increases of 6.0% for small and 6.3% for large groups. Their initial requests were for 11.5% and 10.6% respectively. Tufts Health Plan requested, and were approved increases of 9.3% for small and 9.5% for large group plans.

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