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Public hearing on proposed health insurance rate hikes set for Aug. 15

Health Care Advocate Ted Doolittle speaks during an Aug. 30, 2021 press conference to criticize proposed health insurance rate hikes. Attorney General William Tong, left, and State Comptroller Kevin Lembo stand behind.
Health Care Advocate Ted Doolittle speaks during an Aug. 30, 2021 press conference to criticize proposed health insurance rate hikes. Attorney General William Tong, left, and State Comptroller Kevin Lembo stand behind.

The public will have a chance to weigh in on a request by insurance carriers to increase the cost of individual health plans next year by an average of 20.4%.

The state Insurance Department has scheduled a public hearing for Aug. 15 beginning at 9 a.m. The hearing, typically held in a state office building downtown, will take place at the Legislative Office Building on Capitol Avenue in Hartford. The event was moved to accommodate what is expected to be a larger-than-usual crowd.

The hearing will have a hybrid format, with some people testifying in person and others testifying virtually. Representatives of the insurance companies will have time to explain their rate hike requests, and officials from the insurance department will ask questions.

Anyone who wants to testify virtually can sign up by sending an email to cid.RateFilings@ct.gov with their name and written remarks by noon on Aug. 12.

Those who want to testify in person can sign up at the Legislative Office Building the day of the hearing, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Oral remarks will be limited to three minutes per person.

In addition to the substantial average increase on individual plans, insurers who sell policies on and off Connecticut’s Affordable Care Act Exchange are seeking an average hike of 14.8% on small group plans.

The requested increases are substantially higher than those sought last year for 2022 health policies. Carriers in 2021 asked for an average hike of 8.6% on individual plans and 12.9% on small group plans.

The proposals have sparked criticism from health care advocates, who fear more people will forgo coverage because they can’t afford it.

“It’s jaw-dropping,” Lynne Ide, program lead for communications outreach and engagement at the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, said last month. “Looking at these rate requests, the ranges are off the charts.

“Our big concern right now is, coupled with inflation and the fallout from COVID, these proposed increases spell trouble. Our concern is that people will take a look at this and decide to go without health coverage, because they just can’t afford it.”

“My jaw hit the floor, obviously,” added Ted Doolittle, the state’s health care advocate. “I’m deeply concerned that people will go without coverage because of these high prices. It is incumbent on the insurance companies and the providers to explain to the people in the state why this is inevitable and there is no alternative.”

Attorney General William Tong asked for a special hearing that would allow officials to collect evidence and scrupulously question insurers about their proposed increases. Officials would be able to cross-examine witnesses and present their own evidence in a public setting.

So far, the insurance department has not granted that request, instead opting for the traditional informational hearing format that it has followed in recent years.

Three insurers are selling policies on the exchange: Anthem Health Plans, CTCare Benefits Inc., and ConnectiCare Insurance Company Inc.

Anthem requested an average increase of 8.6% for individual policies that cover 27,698 people. The proposed changes range from a decrease of 1.8% to an increase of 16.1%, depending on the plan.

The company also sought an average hike of 3.6% on small group policies that cover 19,271 residents. The suggested changes range from a decrease of 1.2% to an increase of 26.3%.

CTCare Benefits asked for an average hike of 24.1% on individual plans that cover 75,003 people. Proposed changes range from an increase of 18.7% to 33.2%, depending on the policy.

It also sought an average hike of 22.9% on small group plans that cover 3,476 residents (increases range from 20% to 28.9%).

ConnectiCare Insurance Company, which only sells individual policies on the exchange, requested an average increase of 25.2% for plans that cover 8,782 people. Suggested hikes range from 17.1% to 32.2%.

The insurance department will make a decision this fall on how much of an increase to grant — if any — for the various health plans.

Open enrollment for 2023 health policies begins on Nov. 1.

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