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Insurers Continue to Make Rate Hike Case

Sonya Huber is a customer of Aetna, and she's not happy rates are slated to rise next year.

Two more health insurers have put their case to regulators for substantial rate hikes for next year. After Anthem’s public hearing before the Connecticut Insurance Department Wednesday, it was the turn of Connecticare and Aetna Thursday. 

Connecticare had requested an average increase in rates for individual plans of 24 percent, but it revised that request several times. After a the final revision just one day before the Thursday hearing, the request stood at 42 percent. Chief Financial Officer Eric Galvin told the hearing officer the request is driven by market conditions.

"We cannot continue to provide the quality plans and services that have allowed Connecticare to become a market leader in our state," he said, "with premium rates that are insufficient to pay for the cost of care for our beneficiaries, related expenses, and provide reasonable ability for Connecticare to sustain the volatility of the individual insurance market."

But consumers and physicians testified against the rate hikes.

Lynne Ide of the Universal Healthcare Foundation of Connecticut criticized the regulatory process itself, saying she's concerned that the Insurance Department isn't required to take into account the affordability of plans in making its determination on rates. "Unaffordable health insurance is a more expensive version of being uninsured, for some people," she said. "I do think this state does need to deal with this."

She pointed to neighboring Rhode Island where affordability is a formal part of regulatory proceedings.

At Aetna’s hearing, Sonya Huber from Stratford said that her high deductible plan is forcing her to pay $11,000 dollars a year out of pocket, on top of her premium payments.

"I have rheumatoid arthritis, which is a chronic autoimmune condition," she said, "and my husband has been looking for work for the past couple of years. Because I am the only one in my family with insurance, we have no choice but to watch our costs go up and up."

On average, the rate hikes requested by Aetna are more than 28 percent. Jason Cirino, Director of Small Groups for Aetna told the hearing "medical costs are going up and we are changing our rates to reflect this increase. We expect medical costs to go up 11 percent in 2017."

He also pointed to changes in federal and state requirements that add to insurers' costs.

The Department will continue to collect public comment on the rate increases for the next week.

Harriet Jones is Managing Editor for Connecticut Public Radio, overseeing the coverage of daily stories from our busy newsroom.

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