By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE â€“ Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, the stateâ€™s largest health insurer, filed a request with the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner seeking a 4.4. percent increase for its Direct Pay customers. If approved, the rate increase would take effect on April 1, 2012.
Last year, Blue Cross requested a 8.1 percent hike in rates but received only a 1.9 percent rate increase. The roughly 15,000 individual and family plan members who purchase their insurance with no employer contribution are among the most vulnerable health insurance consumers, according to R.I. Health Insurance Commissioner Christopher F. Koller.
Blue Cross is the only Rhode Island health insurer that offers coverage to Rhode Island residents who are not eligible for health insurance through an employer (other than as a self-employed individual), Medicare, or Medicaid. Blue Cross is also is the only insurer in the Rhode Island market to offer guaranteed coverage, regardless of pre-existing conditions, during its annual open enrollment.
Blue Cross, acknowledging the vulnerability of this population, said it felt it was important to make healthcare more accessible and affordable for these members by funding the program through the end of 2013 when federal subsidies will kick in, according to Blue Cross spokeswoman Laura Calenda.
In addition, to help those hardest hit by the stateâ€™s ongoing economic challenges, Blue Cross also pledged $4.5 million to fund their AccessBlue program, which helps eligible members pay their health insurance premiums. About 28 percent of Blue Crossâ€™s Direct Pay members currently take advantage of the AccessBlue program.