Rhode Island has the highest health insurance premiums in the nation, yet most residents are satisfied with their healthcare and their plans, according to a study by the state health department.
Rhode Islanders paid $226 monthly on premiums in 2002, 41% higher than $160 per month nationwide.
Between 1998 and 2002, premiums rose an average of 12% annually in Rhode Island, compared to an 8% annual rise nationally during the same period.
The report found that 69% of those insured in Rhode Island were satisfied with their health coverage, compared with 64% in New England and 61% nationally, the Providence Journal reported. As to healthcare services, 80% in Rhode Island said they were satisfied, compared to 79% in New England and 75% nationally.
Researchers said the state's two main health insurers -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island and United Healthcare of New England -- spent more on healthcare and administration than their counterparts elsewhere. Overall, Rhode Island insurers' profits fell from 4.4% in 2000 to 2.2% in 2002. Nationally, they fell 6.7% on average during the same time period. The difference, according to the report, results from the higher premiums and lower expenses in Rhode Island.
Lawmakers are scrutinizing health care policy this session. One question raised in the study is whether the difference in what people are paying for healthcare is reflected in the difference in price.
"We all know that we pay a lot for health insurance in this state," said Bruce Cryan, the report's author. "We also know we get good quality and members are generally more satisfied with their healthcare."
The question for lawmakers may have greater urgency as the market becomes more of a monopoly. The report says Blue Cross' market share was 71% in 2002, up from a little more than half in 1998.
The report used national data from the A.M. Best Co., a company that rates the financial strength of insurers. It is the fifth annual study of commercial health plan performance.