Two Vermont health insurers are seeking rate increases


MONTPELIER -- The two health insurance companies offering coverage through the state health exchange are seeking to raise their rates for Vermonters and small businesses.

The state’s largest insurance provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, has requested an average 9.8 percent increase and MVP Health Care is seeking to hike its rates an average of 15.4 percent.

The Green Mountain Care Board said Tuesday it had started its review of the proposals.

The proposed rate hike is driven by significant increases in medical prices and changes related to federal and state health care reforms, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont said. Those changes included an increase in a federal fee that is part of exchange pricing, a drop in federal subsidies of the premiums on the state’s new exchange, and expansion of dental benefits for children, the company said.

MVP Health Care cited similar reasons.

"Sadly, the rapidly-rising price of health care services in Vermont, coupled with a sharp hike in prescription drug costs, federal taxes, and an enormous slash in federal reimbursement rates, make the economics of providing coverage unsustainable in 2015 without premium increases," said Karla Austen, MVP Health Care’s interim chief financial officer.

The proposals must be reviewed by the board, which is charged with having its own actuarial review. Although no one can predict what will happen, in recent years the board has knocked down rates by a few points in some cases, said Michael Fisher, D-Lincoln, chairman of the House Committee on Health Care.

"People who have been buying insurance for years are familiar with double digit increases year upon year upon year," he said. "So on the one hand it’s in the same pattern as that, on the other hand the Affordable Care Act is clearly not affordable to many Vermonters."

Darcie Johnston, leader of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, a group opposed to the state’s health care plans, said the increases will be unsustainable for Vermonters. "I think that Vermonters are going to have a very hard time dealing with those increasing costs," she said.

The public will get a chance to weigh on the proposed rates at public hearings Aug. 12 and 13 at the Statehouse. The board is expected to issue final 2015 rates by Sept. 2.


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