Insurance companies, lawmakers spar over proposed Connecticut health insurance rate hikes
Health insurance companies have requested double-digit rate increases in Connecticut — and elected and appointed officials from both parties urged the state Department of Insurance to reject the proposal at a public hearing Monday.
Insurance companies that sell policies on and off the state's Affordable Care Act exchange have proposed average rate hikes of 20% on individual plans in Connecticut next year — higher than last year’s increase of 9%.
Companies that submitted filings cover more than 200,000 people in Connecticut.
State officials invited two insurance companies — Cigna and ConnectiCare — to the hearing out of several that are requesting rate increases. Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais said he chose the companies that requested the highest increases.
Karen Moran, president of ConnectiCare, said at the hearing that the insurance company lost $65 million last year due to unexpected health care costs.
"The single most significant driver of our proposed rate increase is to restore our rates to an adequate level. We have not requested any more than is absolutely necessary for us to stay in the exchange,” Moran said, referring to Connecticut’s Affordable Care Act exchange.
Wendy Sherry, vice president of Cigna, defended her company's proposed rate increases, arguing that its prices were lower than the marketplace average and that the company had faithfully stuck to the 3% profit margin cap set by the state.
Both companies said the proposed rate increases reflect the rising costs that medical providers and pharmaceutical companies are charging them. They pointed to an increase in services requested, due in part to the many people seeking care who had put it off during the pandemic.
“Utilization of medical and pharmaceutical services is exceeding pre-pandemic levels and is expected to continue as members seek care that was put off during the pandemic," Moran said. "And delays in preventive care and screenings during the pandemic have resulted in greater complexity and severity of conditions such as cancer.”
At least a dozen lawmakers from both parties spoke out at the hearing against the rate hikes, though they offered different solutions.
State Rep. Kate Farrar was one of several Democrats who pointed to insurance companies’ profits in 2021.
“Of the nine insurance companies seeking increases, five of the companies saw billions of dollars in profits,” Farrar said. She noted that Cigna’s CEO received $91 million in compensation last year, according to a report from the Connecticut Citizen Action Group.
But another lawmaker, Republican state Sen. Kevin Kelly, blamed the expansion of state-funded health care for rising costs.
“The cost drivers are high inflation, and Connecticut Democrats’ continued expansion of government-run Medicaid, which makes health care prices for every family buying private health insurance more expensive,” Kelly said.
The insurance department is expected to make its decision about next year’s rates in September.
Another forum scheduled in October will discuss health care costs in general, which will be open to doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies.
State health advocate Ted Doolittle lamented the absence of those parties at Monday’s hearing.
“Most of [the money paid to insurance companies] goes to pharma,” Doolittle said, addressing the insurance company representatives. “It goes to the providers. They should be here to justify the prices that they’re not only making you carriers pay, but that they’re making us pay.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story included language that ConnectiCare’s president Karen Moran said at the hearing that the proposed rate hike was to make up for losses in the previous year. Moran said that the company’s proposed increase was intended to restore their rates to an adequate level.