PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Attorney General Peter Neronha is speaking out against a proposed increase in healthcare costs for next year, which he argues will be unaffordable due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The cost hikes would affect more than 45,000 Rhode Islanders, Neronha said, and that number could grow over time as more people grapple with unemployment.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying challenging economic conditions, I believe that no health insurance rate increases should be granted,” Neronha said in a statement.

Neronha recently expressed his concerns with the state’s Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner (OHIC).

He said he’s especially worried about the Rhode Islanders who purchase plans on the individual market rather than through their employers.

Both Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) and Neighborhood Health Plan Rhode Island (NHPRI) recently proposed an increase of nearly 6%.

Neronha said based on actuarial reports, which are used to calculate insurance risks, he can only justify an increase of 1.2% for BCBSRI and 0.6% increase for NHPRI.

“It is no secret that many Rhode Islanders are struggling financially during this pandemic,” the report for BCBSRI says. “The unemployed will find themselves in a precarious situation, having to choose between paying for insurance no longer received through their employer or paying for other necessities such as food or housing and facing a tax penalty.”

BCBSRI responded to Neronha’s concerns, saying that the proposed price hike is based on several factors, “including the cost and number of healthcare services and our members’ use of prescription drugs.”

The actuarial report for NHPRI said in part, “Rhode Island has instituted a state-based individual mandate, all Rhode Islanders must have health insurance or pay a tax penalty. The cost of not having health insurance is not only felt when an uninsured person needs care, but when he or she pays her state taxes.”

NHPRI VP of Commercial Products Elizabeth McClaine said the insurance provider “respects OHIC’s regulatory process currently underway to review the factual rationale for Neighborhood’s request.”

A spokesperson for the OHIC said they will announce a decision on the price hikes in the coming days.