Cut proposed premium hikes

While much attention has rightfully been focused on Congress’ and the president’s efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, Vermonters still have important health care concerns to address here at home.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and MVP Health Care have recently proposed rate hikes of 12.7% and 7.7% respectively to their 2018 Vermont Health Connect plans. For Blue Cross Blue Shield, that’s the highest proposed increase since the inception of Vermont Health Connect in 2014. More than 80,000 Vermonters could see a dramatic increase in insurance rates if these proposals are approved by the Green Mountain Care Board.

Vermonters already pay 20 cents of every dollar we earn on health care costs, with nearly 35% of the population qualifying for Medicaid support. If BCBSVT and MVP’s rate increases are approved, affordable and quality health care will be even further out of reach for thousands of Vermonters, especially low-income people and those with high health care needs. As increases in health-related costs continue to outpace wages, it is with a growing urgency that we do everything we can in Vermont to keep our health care costs affordable.

And for those wondering if these proposed rate increases are simply justified by rising medical costs, the answer—at least in the case of Blue Cross Blue Shield—is no. According to Vermont’s Health Care Advocate, Blue Cross Blue Shield’s proposal is at least 4% too high. That’s real money–$15 million to be exact—that could be kept in Vermonters’ pockets.

The Green Mountain Care Board has the ability to approve, deny, or modify these requested rate increases, and it is absolutely critical that they hear from the public on this matter. They’ve already heard from insurers trying to justify the dramatic rate increases. These insurance companies have significant political influence in the state, so it’s essential that the members of the Board hear from the overwhelming majority of Vermonters who want to see the health care system become more affordable, not less.

The formal deadline for comments has passed, but the Board continues to accept general public comments on the matter and will issue their final decision by August 10th. In years past, Vermonters have submitted hundreds of comments to the Board, ultimately staving off substantial rate increases and savings millions of dollars in premiums.

Just as citizen activists across the country (including many from Vermont) successfully opposed plans to strip health care benefits from millions of Americans, it is time now to speak out against plans that will make health care less affordable in Vermont. VPIRG encourages Vermonters to submit public comments to the Green Mountain Care Board, urging the Board to cut the proposed rate hike and keep health care within reach for Vermonters.

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