Koller set to rule on controversial insurance hikes

Posted 6/20/11

CRANSTON – Public comment about proposed health-insurance rate increases of up to 20 percent in Rhode Island has been unanimously opposed, including from small businesses and public officials.

Only two people spoke at a June 8 hearing for public comment, according to R.I. Health Commissioner Christopher F. Koller. Approximately 30 written comments were also received and made public online, all opposed.

• “My Blue Cross just escalated 21.3 percent, which makes my monthly premium $1,801! This is a major issue facing small businesses and [is] causing their demise,” said Thomas J. Wallis, owner of Wallis Seafood, Inc. of Barrington, in a handwritten note.

• “In a state where our economic recovery has been anemic at best, it is essential that health-insurance increases be limited to no more than absolutely necessary if we are to avoid choking off what little job growth we have seen in the past two years,” wrote J. Michael Vittoria, president of the Rhode Island Business Group on Health.

Koller is expected to make a decision to accept, reject or modify the health insurers’ requests at the end of June. The proposed hikes include: 4.8 percent for Tufts Health Plan of Rhode Island for small and large groups; 10.5 percent for Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island for both small and large groups and 18 percent for small groups and 20 percent for large groups for UnitedHealthcare of New England.

A request by Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin to hold a public hearing on the requests was rejected by Koller, who said that the costs of holding such a hearing, estimated to be about $500,000, would be passed onto the consumer, outweighing any additional information that would be captured from a public hearing. •

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