Tens of thousands of Connecticut health insurance consumers will still see double-digit increases in their 2017 rates, even though the state’s Department of Insurance has denied some rate requests filed by health insurers while reducing others.
The agency said Friday the rates reflect rising medical costs and elimination of the federal payments previously made to insurers to help stabilize rates during the first three years of the Affordable Care Act.
“The Connecticut market is experiencing what other states have seen this year – rising health care costs, increased demand for services and significantly higher prescription drug costs,” said Insurance Commissioner Katharine L. Wade in written statement. “Therefore, in some cases, higher rates were actuarially justified.”
The agency’s actuaries reviewed 17 rate filings submitted by 12 health insurance companies selling individual and small group plans in the state, covering approximately 300,000 people. The plans include some offered on and off the state’s health insurance exchange, known as Access Health CT.
Both Anthem Health Plans and ConnectiCare Insurance Co. are being ordered to recalculate their rate requests for certain plans they offer to consumers. Commissioner Katharine L. Wade says they were too excessive. Anthem was seeking an average 26.8 percent increase for individual plans serving 56,700 people offered on the state exchange and an average 11.6 percent increase for small group plans serving 42,200 people offered on the exchange. Meanwhile, ConnectiCare was denied its request for a 24.3 percent increase for individual plans offered off the exchange and covering 37,142 people.
The two companies have until Sept. 7 to submit their revised rates for consideration. Lynne Ide, director of program and policy and the Universal Health Care Foundation, said she worries consumers will still pay double-digit rate increases, which she contends are unwarranted given the companies’ profits.
“I’m fearful of what the recalculations will look like,” she said.
Connecticut officials pared a proposed 27.1 percent average increase for individual plans offered by ConnectiCare on the state’s health insurance exchange to 17.4 percent. Those plans cover 47,597 people. However, the agency approved Aetna Inc.’s average 27.9 percent rate increase for individual plans offered off the exchange. They serve 6,346 people.
Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the average individual rate increase off and on the exchange is 24.48 percent while the average small group rate increase off and on the exchange is 12.88 percent. In a letter sent Friday to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell, Malloy stressed how he’s disappointed the rate increases must occur and that it’s “imperative that further action is taken at the federal level to stabilize rates.”
“To fail to act,” wrote Malloy, “is to fail consumers in Connecticut and nationally.”
Republican legislators, who represent the minority party in the Democratic controlled General Assembly, said state lawmakers need to determine what Connecticut can do to address problems associated with the ACA. The new legislative session opens in January.
“Rate increases cannot be the only solution,” said Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, the GOP Senate leader on the legislature’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee. “We have to dig deeper into why the industry is struggling, why some people are not purchasing insurance and what the state can do to create a better environment for insurance companies and consumers alike.”
Ide has suggested the legislature contemplate allowing the Connecticut Department of Insurance to take into account affordability as it decides whether to approve rate increase applications. Neighboring Rhode Island has an affordability standard.
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