UVM Health Networks seeks to increase commercial insurance prices by 7%



A hospital bill from the UVM medical center. Photo by Mike Dougherty / VTDigger

The state’s largest healthcare provider is asking regulators to let it increase prices for commercial insurers by an average of 7% next year.

The University of Vermont Health Network on Thursday submitted to the Green Mountain Care Board a combined $ 2 billion spending plan for its three hospitals in Burlington, Berlin and Middlebury. (The network also includes three hospitals in upstate New York, but they operate outside of the council’s jurisdiction.) A crucial part of his proposal: How much he would like to increase his prices by.

Overall, the network wants to increase net patient income by 6% next year. But that figure assumes that Medicaid will keep its reimbursement rates stable and that Medicare will only go up to a 2.5% increase. To compensate for what government payers won’t pay, the network says it needs to increase private insurers’ rates by about 7%. About half of all Vermonters get their health care coverage through commercial carriers.

“We are continuing the long-term work to cautiously exit the Covid-19 pandemic, a process that will take years,” said John Brumsted, CEO of the network, in a statement. “Through careful and deliberate management of expenses, we aim to reduce costs while ensuring that we move forward with the high quality care and services our patients need and deserve.”

The higher figure of 7% is also an aggregate of the increase in commercial tariffs proposed by each hospital. The University of Vermont Medical Center is asking for a 7.05% increase. The Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin wants a 7.41% increase. Porter Medical Center in Middlebury wants a 5.86% increase.

According to officials, labor costs continue to be the primary cost drivers for the network, followed by rising pharmaceutical prices.

“Like last year, our spending on labor and pharmaceuticals are not factors unique to Vermont – they are regional and national challenges, and are largely beyond the control of the UVM Health Network or the council. administration, ”hospital officials wrote in their budget summary to regulators.

July 1 is the deadline for the state’s 14 hospitals to submit their budget proposals to the board, although details of other providers are not yet public. The council will first review hospital budgets on July 28 and schedule public hearings through August. A final decision by regulators must be made by October 1, the start of the federal fiscal year.

The process for approving the hospital’s budget last year was controversial. A showdown between regulators and providers ultimately ended with the Care Board giving in to demands from hospitals, although regulators said they had not done so so as not to jeopardize federal Covid-19 relief funds .

Mike Fisher, the state’s healthcare advocate, said he had not yet had time to review the UVM’s budget proposal in its entirety and that his staff would review it in the future. weeks ahead to speak to the board later this month. But he warned that the cost of ever-increasing hospital budgets would eventually be borne by everyday consumers.

“Hospital business increases directly lead to increases in premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, and many Vermonters are already overpriced,” he said.

Health insurers, meanwhile, submitted their proposed rates for next year to regulators in May. The requests were a mixed bag. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, the state’s largest insurer, has called for an 8% drop in health insurance rates for small businesses and nonprofits – a first for the company. MVP Health Care, on the other hand, asked for a 5% increase. Both insurers have requested much larger hikes for plans offered through Vermont Health Connect, although federal dollars may offset the cost.

Public hearings on insurance rates are programmed for July 19, 21 and 22. A council decision is expected on August 5.

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