HEALTH INSURANCE

Koller grants conditional approval of Blue Cross premium increases

PBN FILE PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
CHRISTOPHER F. KOLLER, R.I. health insurance commissioner, has granted conditional approval to the revised health insurance premium rate increases requested by BCBSRI.
Posted 2/8/13

PROVIDENCE – R.I. Health Insurance Commissioner Christopher F. Koller has granted conditional approval to the revised health insurance premium increases from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island.

The state’s largest health insurer will increase rates for small group employers by 3.67 percent in 2013. For large group employers, Blue Cross will increase average rates by 7.8 percent for 2013, an increase of 3.89 percentage points from the 3.98 percent average rate increase granted by Koller in September.

Both increases are less than what Blue Cross originally requested. BCBSRI requested a 5.1 percent rate increase for small employers and a 9 percent increase for large employers.

When it filed its new increase requests in December, Blue Cross said that the increases reflected the company’s recent medical trends for 2012, which steadily increased from historically low 2011 trends.

“My office is charged with keeping health insurance as affordable as possible while ensuring the solvency of the state’s insurers,” said Koller in prepared remarks. “Given these twin responsibilities, I am conditionally approving BCBSRI’s unusual mid-year request, because I have found the threat to the company’s financial condition, resulting from unanticipated increased medical expenses, to be credible. These increases are necessary to address this threat.”

“When it filed its new increase requests in December, Blue Cross said that the increases reflected the company’s recent medical trends for 2012, which steadily increased from historically low 2011 trends,” said Koller.

The conditions are as follows:

  • Affordable insurance plans: By May 1, 2014, BCBSRI will be required to offer at least one new, affordable health insurance plan to consumers priced at least 15 percent less than the price of a plan with comparable benefits.

  • Additional 2013 increase criteria: BCBSRI must file complete 2012 medical expense data by March 2013 with OHIC.

  • Financial recovery plan: BCBSRI must file a report on its financial recovery plan on a quarterly basis in 2013 to ensure that it is making adequate progress in addressing its financial condition.

  • Monitoring: BCBSRI must meet with OHIC on a quarterly basis to review its compliance with the affordable insurance plans condition, above.

“As I have repeatedly said, health insurance continues to be expensive — too expensive — because the underlying cost of health care itself is expensive,” added Koller. “With the work we are doing in Rhode Island to transform primary care, build health information technology, engage consumers, coordinate care and implement provider payment reform, now is the time for lower cost plans for consumers to be offered. Change from all stakeholders — insurers, providers and consumers — will be required to produce demonstrable results.”

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