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    Saturday, December 03, 2022

    Many increases still above 10% even after Conn. regulators scale back health insurers’ 2023 rate hike requests

    The Connecticut Insurance Department said Friday it reduced 2023 health insurance rate increase requests, but authorized prices that are still higher by double digits for more than 120,000 plan members and others.

    Regulators, citing steadily rising medical and prescription drug costs, faced rate increase requests by carriers that were higher for 2023 than last year’s proposals for 2022. Carriers in 2021 sought an average increase of 8.6% on individual plans and 12.9% on small group plans.

    Requests this year by carriers in the individual market were reduced by the Insurance Department to an average increase of 12.9% from 20.4%. In the small group market, premium increases were pared to an average 7.9% from 14.8% sought by insurers.

    Criticism was swift, but Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais said the rate reductions and actions holding insurers’ profit to 0.5% would save more than 200,000 members about $138 million next year.

    “Consumers can rest assured that health insurance companies in Connecticut are not profiting at the expense of their policyholders,” he said.

    Medical costs have increased about 8% to 10% and prescription costs have risen about 10% to 12%, Mais said.

    Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said health care costs and insurance premiums were already unaffordable for many Connecticut families and small businesses.

    “These double-digit rate hikes — among the highest in the country — will only make that worse,” he said.

    State Healthcare Advocate Ted Doolittle said increases of 15% and higher “remain outrageous and unsustainable and leave Connecticut families once again paying massive medical costs that hamper our state’s economic competitiveness.”

    Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly of Stratford and Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield and top Republican on the General Assembly’s Insurance Committee, said even with additional federal money, Connecticut residents face “staggering increases.”

    “Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act promising affordable, accessible, quality health care. Here we are a decade later and that promise has never been fulfilled,” they said.

    State Sen. Matt Lesser, co-chairman of the Insurance Committee, said the federal Inflation Reduction Act extends subsidies through 2025, limiting individual health insurance premiums to no more than 8.5% of a family’s income. The federal government will pay the “vast majority” of the higher premiums, said Lesser, D-Middletown.

    However, rates for small businesses are increasing much faster than inflation, Lesser said. “Connecticut’s insurance industry has simply failed to contain costs,” he said.

    Lesser called for a public option, allowing Connecticut residents to buy insurance from a state plan that has met strong industry opposition and failed several times in the legislature.

    Susan Halpin, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Health Plans, said rising health care costs have fueled higher commercial premiums and resulted in cost overruns and double-digit premium increases in the Partnership Plan, the state’s insurance plan for municipal employees. She called it the “proposed chassis for a public option.”

    Nearly 121,000 covered lives — health insurance subscribers, beneficiaries and plan members — on eight of 13 insurance plans on and off Connecticut’s Affordable Care Act Exchange face average double-digit increases next year in markets for individuals and employers with 50 or fewer workers.

    About 66,000 people in three insurance plans will pay rates higher than last year, but short of double-digit increases. And health insurance costs will remain flat or were cut for about 20,000 subscribers, beneficiaries and others on two plans.

    Spokeswoman Kim Kann said ConnectiCare is “extremely mindful of the impact that rate increases have on our members and we strive to keep our plans as fairly priced as possible within the reality of today’s health care environment.”

    Anthem spokeswoman Alessandra Simkin did not address the Insurance Department’s decision. She said the insurer is confident it will “deliver reliable, affordable and quality health care that meets the needs of consumers in this market.”

    Representatives of several other insurance carriers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    Anthem Health Plans, CTCare Benefits Inc., Aetna Life Insurance Co., Cigna Health and Life Insurance Co., Oxford Health Plans Inc. and United HealthCare Insurance Co. are among insurers that won increased rates.

    Insurance increase requests that were pared back include ConnectiCare’s average of 25.2% more for individual coverage that regulators reduced to 15%, CTCare Benefits’ average increase of 22.9%, also reduced to 15% and a 13.4% increase in small group plans sought by Oxford Health Insurance that was cut to 7.9%.

    Anthem Health Plans’ request to raise its 2023 small group rate by 3.6% was reduced by state insurance regulators to an average rate that will be 1.2% less than this year’s rate. More than 19,000 plan participants and others will benefit.

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