PROVIDENCE — Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced Tuesday that he has filed official objections to several rate increases requested by the state’s health insurers.
Neronha filed objections to health insurers’ proposed rate increases with the state’s Office of Health Insurance Commissioner, which received requests earlier this summer from multiple insurers seeking to raise their rates. Those companies included Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island, United Healthcare, Aetna, Cigna, and Harvard Pilgrim in the large market.
The attorney general also opposed price increases from Blue Cross Blue Shield, Neighborhood Health, Harvard Pilgrim, and UnitedHealth in the small group market; and Neighborhood Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield in the individual market.
Altogether, these rate increases would impact more than 166,000 Rhode Islanders who are enrolled in individual, large, and small employer group insurance plans.
“Once again, this office is objecting to proposed health insurance rate increases that would impact more than 166,000 Rhode Islanders because we believe they are not justified given current economic conditions and the relative financial strength of the health insurers,” said Neronha in a statement Tuesday.
Neronha said the rate increases were being proposed during a period of economic instability for many Rhode Islanders, recent increased levels of inflation impacting the cost of essentials, and the “historically high housing prices” facing the state.
“Rhode Islanders should not bear the full weight of rising health care costs alone,” said Neronha. “It should be a shared responsibility borne by all stakeholders including health insurance companies.”
The requested average rate increases ranged from 4.4 percent to 9.3 percent in the individual group. In the small group, insurers requested average increases ranging from 5.8 percent to 16.1 percent.
The large group market requested an average increases range from 5.9 percent to 12.4 percent, according to the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner.
Many of these companies have posted enormous profits in recent years, Neronha said. Cigna, for example, requested an increase of 5.9 percent in the large group market, after it reported a total adjusted revenue of more than $180 billion in 2022 and its profit topped $1.2 billion. The company also projected adjusted revenue of $187 billion this year.
Aetna, which is owned by Woonsocket-based CVS Health, requested a 6.6 percent rate increase in the large group market after posting a $91.4 billion revenue in 2022. Aetna ultimately contributed to CVS’s $4.1 billion profit in 2022. On Tuesday, Neronha stressed in a statement that the insurers’ increased financial resources should be “passed on to benefit consumers” by making their coverage more affordable.
“Among all the players, they are by and large the strongest financially,” said Neronha. “By preventing health insurers from passing increased costs through to consumers, we create an incentive for stakeholders to work together to improve our health care system and strengthen it.”
Cory King, the state’s health insurance commissioner, will review each health insurer’s coverage and contracts with consumers. The office’s final decision to approve, modify, or reject the proposed rates is expected to be announced in mid-to-late August.
Each year, Neronha’s office hires independent actuaries to evaluate health insurance companies’ proposed increases. This is not the first time Neronha has rejected price hikes from insurance companies. Neronha rejected several rate increases from the state’s health insurance companies in 2022, 2021, and in 2020.