MONTPELIER, Vt. – Protestors rallied outside Montpelier City Hall on Tuesday to draw attention to proposed rate increases by Vermont’s largest health insurers.
The rally came ahead of a public heating in which state regulators sided with insurers to block a report on rate increases by Vermont’s chief health care advocate.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and MVP Health Care argued that Mike Fisher, a former lawmaker who helped craft the rules on rate increases, was not an expert, but an advocate. The Green Mountain Care Board, which oversees health care in Vermont, agreed.
Avery Book, vice president of the Vermont Workers Center, which organized Tuesday’s rally, said it was “pretty outrageous” that Fisher’s report was rejected.
“I guess Blue Cross Blue Shield doesn’t like what he has to say,” Book said.
Sara Teachout, a spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, said barring Fisher’s report was a “technical issue related to the fact that the healthcare advocate is not an expert witness, but he could be considered a factual witness.
Blue Cross Blue Shield and MVP Health Care have proposed a 7.5% and 10.9% increase respectively.
Book said protestors were concerned that with the rising cost of living in Vermont, healthcare is becoming too expensive.
“None of us are getting a raise and none of us are getting any relief from all the other costs of living,” he said. “We’re saying there should be no more rate increases, and if anything, we should go in the other direction.”
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, meanwhile, maintains that the average rate increase of 7.5% is higher than what Vermonters will actually pay.
“The amount actually experienced by consumers will be 5.6%,” Teachout said. “Across the country, the rates are in the double digits, so Vermont is definitely a different marketplace, and we have not seen the increase here that has been felt nationally.”
Teachout said Blue Cross Blue Shield will look to help customers in the future, but the insurer plans to move forward with the rate increase.