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Lynch Continues Tough Talk

Attorney General Patrick Lynch continues his tough talk in the run up to next year's gubernatorial contest. This statement today is typical of the AG's brawling style. And it could be viewed as an effort to grab center stage on an issue his gubernatorial rival, Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts, has attempted to highlight in her nascent campaign:

Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch today issued the following statement on the Office of Health Insurance Commissioner’s “open forum” this evening concerning Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island’s proposed rates increases of 13.9 percent for small employers and 16.3 percent for the plan covering large employers.  UnitedHealthcare’s proposed hikes are 11.6 percent and 13.2 percent, respectively, for small and large employers. 

“What the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner bills as an ‘open forum’ doesn’t even come close to being a substitute for the full public hearing that is warranted by the significant rate hikes proposed by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and UnitedHealthcare.  For an office that has consistently touted the need for transparency, the Commissioner’s decision not to conduct a full public hearing is a slap in the face to the small businesses and families of Rhode Island, who will be stuck with trying to cope with the burden imposed by the rate hikes. 

“To suggest that tonight’s ‘open forum’ provides a fair opportunity for members of the public to let their voices be heard regarding the outrageous premiums they will be forced to pay is a farce.  These tough economic times demand a full vetting as families and small businesses are subjected to continuous health care rate hikes without check.  And a full vetting can only be achieved by a full public hearing that will allow the Attorney General’s Office, through its Insurance Advocate, to challenge the evidence supporting Blue Cross’s and UnitedHealthcare’s proposed rate hikes. Time and again through the years, we have fought the excesses of Blue Cross and sought to hold them accountable.  We challenged UnitedHealthcare in its intent to ship $36.8 million of dividend payments out of Rhode Island to Minnesota.  All health care providers in our market, which now includes Tufts, must know that accountability stands foremost in our charge to the industry.

“The Health Insurance Commissioner is empowered to enforce the laws, but he is a regulator, not an advocate, as we are.  There is a vast difference between the two and I continue to advocate, on behalf of the families and businesses of Rhode Island already straining to maintain health insurance coverage, for a full public hearing.  It is only in this way can it be revealed if the proposed rate hikes are justifiable.”

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