Regulator cuts hospital insurance rate increases

The Green Mountain Care Board trimmed commercial insurance rate increases at two University of Vermont Health Network hospitals Monday, drawing a sharp response from the state’s largest hospital operator.

Earlier this summer, the University of Vermont Health Network (UVMHN) requested a slate of commercial insurance rate increases — effectively, seeking to charge private insurance companies more for services provided at its Vermont hospitals.

But on Monday, expressing concern about affordability of medical care for Vermonters, the Green Mountain Care Board approved smaller hikes for those hospitals — University of Vermont Medical Center and Berlin’s Central Vermont Medical Center.

“Every year, we work hard to balance cost containment with the need to ensure that Vermont’s hospitals have the resources necessary to provide high-quality care in their communities,” Jessica Holmes, the interim chair of the Green Mountain Care Board, said in a press release Monday. “This year, we paid close attention to restoring the financial stability of the hospital system and preserving access to care.”

The UVMHN in July projected increases of requested commercial insurance rate increases of 19.9% for the UVMMC and 14.52% for CVMC.

But on Monday, the board voted to approve increases of 14.77% for the former and 12.5% for the latter.

Earlier this month, the Board voted to approve Middlebury’s Porter Medical Center’s request for an 11.5% rate increase. All three hospitals are part of the UVM Health Network.

Other Vermont hospitals saw their proposed rates approved as requested or reduced by only fractions of a percentage point.

The board’s decisions drew a swift rebuke from the UVMHN. In a statement, John Brumsted, the network’s outgoing president and CEO, called the decisions “a severe blow to our ability to serve our patients, improve access, and increase health equity.”

The board’s decisions, Brumsted warned, could “have a negative effect on access to care.”

The Green Mountain Care Board for weeks has been weighing proposed budgets for Vermont’s 14 nonprofit hospitals.

Hospital administrators submit their projected changes in patient revenue and changes to commercial insurance charges to the board.

For commercial medical insurance — as opposed to Medicare or Medicaid — rate increases can be passed onto consumers through hikes in insurance premiums.

Board members expect increases in Medicare reimbursement and increased funding from the Department of Vermont Health Access to offset some of the cuts to rate increases.

The body has also grown increasingly concerned about “the impact of health care costs on Vermont’s commercial rate payers and patients’ access to care,” according to the Monday press release.

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