Vermont Business Magazine The Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) announced this week its premium rates for Blue Cross and MVP, as well as releasing its list of prescription drugs that have risen the most over the last year. The GMCB cut the rate requests for both insurers, but Blue Cross was granted a 9.2 percent increase and MVP a 3.5 percent increase.
The GMCB announced on Thursday its decision on Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont’s (BCBSVT) requested rate increase for insurance plans offered on Vermont Health Connect (VHC), Vermont’s online health benefit exchange. The rates were filed by insurers on May 12 and were subject to a 90-day technical analysis and review by the GMCB. The review process included two days of rate hearings open to the public, input from the Office of the Health Care Advocate, a public comment forum, and the Board received public comment from over 500 Vermonters.
BCBSVT, which insures more than 70,000 Vermonters through VHC, requested a 12.7 percent average annual rate increase for its VHC plans with coverage beginning January 1, 2018. The insurer cited rising medical and pharmaceutical costs, increased utilization of medical services, an increasingly aging population, and mandated changes to federal law as major cost drivers behind the requested rate increase. In other states, insurers are seeking increases of 30 percent and more, in part due to uncertainties with the future of the Affordable Care Act.
After a full review, the Board reduced the requested rate increase to 9.2 percent. Vermonters enrolled in VHC may see higher or lower increases in their premiums, however, depending on the benefit plan in which they are enrolled, and are encouraged to find out if they are eligible for subsidies that will offset the cost of their premiums or reduce their copayments and deductibles.
“This year’s proposed rate increase was the largest rate request by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and the Board faced a difficult task in balancing our different regulatory responsibilities” said Kevin Mullin, Chair of the Green Mountain Care Board. “We are seeing states like Indiana and Wisconsin with areas that will not have any coverage, and a state like Nevada facing the possibility of not having a single option for health insurance on the exchange. We heard from over 500 Vermonters and the Board worked hard to find areas of savings for Vermonters while recognizing the need to make sure Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont maintained its solvency and stability.”
The GMCB on August 9 announced its decision on the 2017 rate increase request for MVP Health Plan, Inc insurance plans offered on Vermont Health Connect.
MVP, which insures more than 10,000 Vermonters through VHC, requested a 6.7 percent average annual rate increase for its VHC plans beginning January 1, 2018. The insurer cites rising medical and pharmaceutical costs, increased utilization of medical services, and changes to federal and state law as drivers of the requested rate increases.
The GMCB cut the rate by almost half, reducing the requested rate increase by 3.2 percent, and approving a 3.5 percent increase for MVP. Because these rate increases represent averages across different benefit plans with varying levels of cost sharing, Vermonters enrolled in VHC may see higher or lower increases in their premiums than the rates approved today. In addition, the GMCB encourages Vermonters to find out if they are eligible for subsidies that will offset the cost of their premiums.
“It is encouraging to see MVP continue its work to control costs and provide quality health insurance in Vermont” Chair Kevin Mullin said. “In a time when we are seeing insurers pull out of communities across the country, it is important for Vermonters to have options for their health insurance, and MVP’s rate certainly works toward this goal.”
Prescription Drug List
The GMCB also on Thursday released a list of prescription drugs, in accordance with Act 165 of 2016, on which the state spends significant health care dollars. Act 165 requires the GMCB, in collaboration with the Department of Vermont Health Access, to identify those drugs whose wholesale acquisition cost has increased by 50 percent or more over the past five years or by 15 percent or more over the past 12 months, creating a substantial public interest in understanding the development of the drugs’ pricing.
The GMCB has posted the list to its website and has provided the list, including the drug name, manufacturer, and percentage of wholesale acquisition cost increase for each, to the Vermont Office of the Attorney General, which is charged with contacting the drug companies to determine the causes of the high increases.
“Drug pricing should be more transparent for Vermonters, many of whom are finding the rising prices of medications unaffordable,” said Susan Barrett, Executive Director of the Green Mountain Care Board. “Although prescription drug pricing is regulated at the federal level, the Board will continue to partner with the Legislature, DVHA and the Attorney General’s office and to reach out to industry to find ways to bring down the cost of prescription drugs.”
For BCBSVT and MVP Vermont Health Connect rate decisions, visit the rate review website: http://ratereview.vermont.gov/.
Source: www.gmcboard.vermont.gov GMCB 8.9&10.2017. DVHA 7.21&24.2017