Health insurance rates to go up for thousands of Vermonters

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – Health care coverage for thousands of Vermonters will be significantly more expensive next year. The Green Mountain Care Board approved double-digit rate hikes for Blue Cross Blue Shield and MVP Health.

For 70,000 individuals and small employers who get their health insurance through Blue Cross Blue Shield and MVP Health, rates will increase up to nearly 20% depending on the plan.

Thursday, regulators approved rate hikes for Vermonters on Blue Cross Blue Shield and MVP Health plans.

Under BCBS, the board approved an 11.7% rate hike for small businesses and an 11.4% increase for individual and family coverage.

Under MVP, an 18.3% hike for small group plans and 19.3% for individual and family plans.

That news is a tough pill for Anders Aughey to swallow.

“That’s going to impact me pretty severely,” Aughey said.

He works at the Vermont Workers’ Center and buys his insurance through Vermont Health Connect.

Blue Cross Blue Shield and MVP are the primary insurers offering plans through the state exchange.

His employer covers some of his deductible but Aughey pays about $150 out of pocket and he has a $6,000 deductible.

“As it stands right now for me, I might as well not have health insurance,” he said.

The rate requests are driven by big budget requests from hospitals which regulators are considering right now. The hospitals’ requests are driven by prescription drug prices, inflation and having to pay traveling nurses to fill systemic staffing shortages.

“We have to predict that the current system we have will continue to produce rates that more and more Vermonters will be priced out of,” said Mike Fisher, a Vermont Legal Aid health care advocate.

For years, Vermont has been trying to change how health care is paid for, switching from fee-for-service to all-payer. But the federal government says not enough providers have signed on.

“It was not enough moving forward and now we have the new crisis on top of it,” said Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield.

So last session lawmakers passed Act 167 which begins a process to explore “global budgets” and reset the conversation around reform.

The rate hikes come at a delicate time in Vermont’s health care arena. Hospitals are requesting big rate hikes and there’s turnover at the Green Mountain Care Board.

Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, is expected to name a permanent chair by the end of the summer, but until then, thousands of Vermonters are going to see their premiums increase.

“Citizens, small businesses, workers are going to find health care inaccessible. That’s inappropriate,” said Sen. Ginny Lyons, D-Chittenden County.

Right now there is financial help for Vermonters– subsidies on the Vermont Health Connect. Open enrollment begins in November.

The Inflation Reduction Act also includes more financial help but that is still being worked out in Congress.

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Green Mountain Care Board approves insurance premium rate hikes

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