Catamount Health customers see big rate increase - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Catamount Health customers see big rate increase

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Carol Gyscek was stunned when she opened her latest insurance bill.

"I got my new bill, premium bill from Catamount, Blue Cross Blue Shield and on it was my new rate increase plus an adjustment for two months trying to collect the increased rate cost from July first," Gyscek said.

Catamount customers, like Gyscek, are receiving bills with adjusted payments for months dating back to the beginning of the quarter. But Blue Cross didn't get approval for its 12-percent rate increase until the end of July.

It's called retroactive billing-- once a rate increase is approved, it must be paid on every month in the quarter, even July and August.

"For most, that will be somewhere between a hundred, a hundred and ten dollars additional payments in addition to the increase in premium," said Kevin Goddard, the vice president of external affairs at Blue Cross.

"I'll pay my fair share when I have to, but for this to be sprung on me at the last minute, and just say oh yeah, by the way, we're going to go back two months retro-- something's unfair about this," Gyscek said.

But Goddard says it's not about being unfair, it's about breaking even.

"In 2012 the expenses of the program would exceed the premiums we collected by about $10 million, so we felt compelled to file a rate increase to offset that significant expense that we were facing," Goddard said.

Customers who receive low-income subsidies won't be charged retroactively.

"Those who are most directly affected are about 2,700 people who purchase from us directly the Catamount programs," Goddard said.

And when it comes to an affordable health care plan, Catamount is the only option until the Vermont Health Exchange is available in January.

"It's all a good reminder of why we need to continue with our efforts in rendering our system if we really want to get to the place where all Vermonters are covered. We have more work to do to get to that place," said Mark Larson, the commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access.

The Department of Vermont Health Access provides the subsidy program for Catamount customers who qualify. Blue Cross Blue Shield says they will work with the remaining customers to set up payment plans.

"While we understand, sympathize and empathize with the folks who find these expenses difficult to pay, it's very important to realize that money is flowing through to cover the medical expenses that they are generating," Goddard said.

In January 2014, Catamount will go away and the Vermont Health Exchange will then be the primary source of health insurance for many Vermonters.

Blue Cross Blue Shield says the 12 percent rate increase will cover Catamount medical expenses through Dec. 31.

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