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Connecticut Insurance Department agrees to move rate hike hearing but won’t change format

Insurance.PNG
Jessica Bravo
/
CT Mirror
Attorney General Tong and health care advocates called on the insurance department to schedule a special hearing on proposed insurance rate increases.

Despite calls from the state’s attorney general and health care advocates to hold a more formal hearing on a proposal to substantially increase rates on 2023 health plans, Connecticut’s Insurance Department will proceed with its usual informational hearing, albeit in a new location.

Attorney General William Tong had 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.

Insurers who sell plans on and off Connecticut’s Affordable Care Act Exchange have asked the state to authorize an average increase of 20.4% for individual health plans next year, and 14.8% for small group policies, alarming advocates who worry more people will go without coverage because they can’t afford it.

Tong described the special hearing as a litigation.

“We need to test what they’re saying and understand what’s behind the numbers; put people under oath and ask them questions and really get to the bottom of this,” he said at a press conference last week. “I want to litigate this question, because the people of this state deserve nothing less than that.”

A spokesman for the insurance department described the usual hearing format as more transparent.

“By holding the public information hearing in the manner by which [the department] has done in the past and proposes to hold again for this year, the proceedings are more fully transparent than a [more formal hearing] as there are less restrictions or criteria placed on participation,” the spokesman, Jim Carson, said.

The usual process allows the public to make oral and written comments on the issue and permits state officials and legislators to testify and ask questions “without having to petition for party and intervenor status,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Tong said he hopes to continue discussions with the insurance department about the possibility of a more formal hearing.

At the request of lawmakers who expressed outrage over the proposed rate hikes, the insurance department will move the hearing from its usual location at a state office building in downtown Hartford to the Legislative Office Building to accommodate a larger expected crowd.

A group of Republican legislators had called for a broader public hearing after the proposed rate increases were announced.

“Holding this hearing at the Capitol complex will enable the greatest level of public access in a facility that was built to foster public gathering, listening, expression, and advocacy,” Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, Senator Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, and Senator Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, wrote in a letter to Governor Ned Lamont, Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais and legislative leaders.

“As lawmakers, we believe the state must do much more to make health care affordable, and that includes fully examining why these rate increases are occurring, how policy impacts rates, and pursuing — not dismissing — solutions. The Capitol complex and Legislative Office Building will allow for the most accessible public hearing.”

Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais agreed to move the hearing.

“Due to the anticipated size of the audience and public participation, this year’s hearing is expected to be held in August at the Legislative Office Building,” he said in a reply letter to legislators.

A date has not yet been set for the hearing. The public can make comments in person or virtually via Microsoft Teams. They can also submit written testimony. Anyone who wants to testify can sign up by sending an email to Cid.RateFilings@ct.gov with their name and testimony attached (including those who want to testify remotely).

“I am pleased that the insurance commissioner has heard our calls to move the hearing process to the Legislative Office Building to better accommodate the public making their voices heard,” Kelly said. “This is an important opportunity for the public to speak out against these rate increases. We need a comprehensive dialogue about why health care remains unaffordable and inaccessible for far too many.”

State Health Care Advocate Ted Doolittle has said he hopes to ask detailed questions of the insurers to get answers on the underlying cost drivers.

“Why do you have to increase your price for a CT scan? It’s the same machine, it’s the same people, it’s the same utilization. Why is the price going up?” he said. “That’s the kind of question I don’t think a premium rate review is complete without answering.”

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.

Launched in 2010, The Connecticut Mirror specializes in in-depth news and reporting on public policy, government and politics. CT Mirror is nonprofit, non-partisan, and digital only.