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By Harold Ambler
By Harold Ambler
(Updated, June 12, 3:20 p.m.)
PROVIDENCE – The four health insurance companies doing business in Rhode Island have filed their 2015 insurance rate requests with the R.I. Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner, and the period for public comment has begun.
Rate-change requests for the small group insurance market for small businesses ranged from a 3 percent decrease requested by Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island to a 16 percent increase requested by UnitedHealthcare of New England.
The two other insurance carriers for small businesses in Rhode Island, Tufts Health Plan and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, requested increases of 5 percent and 8 percent, respectively.
In the individual market, rate request changes ranged from Neighborhood’s 9 percent decrease to BCBSRI’s proposed 8 percent increase. For large employers, Tufts requested the lowest increase, at 5 percent, while UnitedHealthcare requested the highest at 14.5 percent.
According to Mark Gray, a spokesman for the Rhode Island small business advocacy group Small Employer Taskforce, public comment through the OHIC bears substantial weight when it comes to final decisions about all insurance rate-change requests.
“The public input piece is very important,” Gray told Providence Business News, “because one of the commissioner’s prime directives is to protect consumers. She takes the public comment very seriously, and we’ve seen in the past the public comment impact on OHIC’s decision.”
Dr. Kathleen Hittner, Rhode Island’s health commissioner, said her staff is working hard to respond appropriately to the 2015 rate requests. This year is Hittner’s first at the helm at OHIC.
“Rate review is an extremely complex undertaking,” she said, adding that it’s too soon to comment on any details of the process.
Individual Market Base Rates (2014-2015)
Small Group Base Rates (2014-2015)
* Base rates represent the monthly average rate for a standard plan for a 21-year-old.