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CT health insurers request double-digit rate hikes, and many aren't happy about it

Members of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group protest against the proposed health insurance rate hikes by multiple carriers. They gathered Monday Aug. 21, 2023 as a public hearing was underway at the legislative building in Hartford.
Sujata Srinivasan
Connecticut Public
Members of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group protest against the proposed health insurance rate hikes by multiple carriers. They gathered Monday Aug. 21, 2023 as a public hearing was underway at the legislative building in Hartford.

Members of the public gathered in Hartford on Monday to protest against the proposed double-digit health insurance rate hikes for the plan year starting in January 2024.

Individual rate hike requests range from 9.8% to 17.5%, while proposed small group rate request range from 7.5% to 23%. Last year, the average rate request was lower for both plans.

“Every year the rates go up, but that money isn’t going to improve access, or improve quality of care, or to reduce deductibles or to increase networks,” said Debra Dauphinais, co-owner of Bicycles East in Glastonbury.

Dauphinais said she hasn’t been able to find an affordable health plan for herself, her husband who co-owns the business, and their employees.

“The premiums are so high, and there are $6,500 deductibles, that we don’t actually use our health care,” she said.

Insurers attributed the rate hike request to higher health care costs from utilization rates and other factors.

Andrew Mais, insurance commissioner, wanted to know whether the level of utilization is greater than before COVID-19.

“The current utilization trend that we have priced into our filing for 2024 is about 4.1%, which is greater than what we were experiencing before COVID,” said Zachary Moon, actuarial director for Cigna and Oscar. “Our expectation going forward is that there will be a decrease as COVID-19 costs diminish over time.”

In a letter to Mais, Connecticut attorney general William Tong opposed the rate hikes saying health insurers were not adversely affected by the pandemic.

“To the contrary, not only did COVID cause their costs to decrease, but the federal government provided robust subsidies for COVID-19 testing, treatment and other healthcare services, thus enabling health insurers to increase their surpluses during the pandemic,” he wrote.

Mais also wanted to know why rates in Connecticut were higher than elsewhere in the country.

“I think we’ve maybe started with a higher basepoint,” Brandon Rousseau, sales director of individual, small group and commercial large group at Anthem, said at the hearing. “That’s the fight that we’re trying to fight. We’re trying to drive the value-based care to bring the overall cost of care down.”

Mais agreed that driving value-based services, where providers are paid for all services, as opposed to being paid for specific individual services, should theoretically reduce the overall cost.

“What's stopping that from happening?” he asked.

“I think it's still relatively new to Connecticut,” Rousseau said. "Historically, we've been so stuck on a fee-for-service-based structure. We're trying to push and move towards this new model. We're in hospital negotiations right now.”

But many representing the public pointed to the profitability of insurance companies.

Colin Rosadino, a student at the University of Connecticut School of Law, held placards and chanted protests on behalf of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group.

“CVS Health, United Health, Cigna, and Elevance, formerly Anthem, have made in 2022 over $400 billion, and have spent that on their executives, they spent that on stock buyback,” he said. “And now they are asking the citizens of the state to subsidize the billions of dollars that they spend on themselves instead of people.”

Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.

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