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Health care has become less affordable in Rhode Island

Health care spending per capita grew 4.1 percent between 2018 and 2019

A nurse walks through the halls of one of Rhode Island's former field hospital in Cranston earlier this year.David Goldman/Associated Press

PROVIDENCE — The cost of health care is increasingly becoming unaffordable for many Rhode Islanders.

The Rhode Island Health Care Cost Trends Steering Committee announced Thursday that health care spending per capita grew 4.1 percent between 2018 and 2019, producing health care spending of approximately $8,949 per covered Rhode Islander.

This rate exceeds the health care cost growth target that the Steering Committee established of 3.2 percent. The Steering Committee is a public-private partnership that maintains an annual health care cost growth target for the state, and makes recommendations to the state to help reduce the growth in health care spending.


The committee’s 3.2 percent target had included all total health care expenditures: all payments on providers’ claims for reimbursement of the cost of health care provided, all other payments not included on the providers’ claims, all cost-sharing paid by members including but not limited to co-payments, deductibles, and co-insurance, and net cost of private health instance.

Since 2001, Rhode Island worker contributions to employer-sponsored insurance premiums have grown nearly three times faster than personal income, according to a Steering Committee presentation that was sent to media.

Patrick M. Tigue, Rhode Island’s health insurance commissioner said in a prepared statement that the data proved that the state still has work to do to lower health care cost growth in order to improve affordability for Rhode Islanders.

The analysis by the Steering Committee showed a variation in growth rates between commercial, Medicaid, and Medicare markets. The highest rate of growth per capita was found in commercial insurers at 4.7 percent. The per capita Medicaid rate of growth was 4.1 percent and Medicare was the lowest at 1.3 percent.

Hospital outpatient services contributed to 33.2 percent of statewide spending growth. Retail pharmacy, not including manufacturing rebates, contributed to 25.4 percent of statewide spending growth; and professional physician services, which contributed to 14.8 percent of statewide spending growth.


“As a health care community, we must continue to invest in and support this work as progress is only possible through continued transparency and a commitment to meaningful action,” said Michele Lederberg, executive vice president of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island.

The target is annual and is set at 3.2 percent through 2022.

Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.