Insurance companies that sell policies on and off the Connecticut Affordable Care Act exchange are looking for an average increase of 20.4 percent in individual health plans next year, alarming advocates who worry that people will drop insurance because they can’t pay.
The rate hike requests were released by the state Department of Insurance on Friday. For small group plans, carriers are asking for an average increase of 14.8%.
The requested increases are significantly higher than those sought last year for health policies for 2022. In 2021, carriers requested an average increase of 8.6 percent for individual plans and 12.9 percent for small group plans.
“Jaw is terrifying,” said Lynn Ide, director of the communications and engagement program at the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut. “Looking at these rate requests, the ranges are off the charts.
“Our big concern at the moment is that, combined with inflation and the effects of COVID, these proposed increases create problems for spells. Our concern is that people will look at this and decide to go without health coverage because they simply cannot afford it.
“Apparently my jaw hit the floor,” added Ted Doolittle, the state’s health advocate. “I am deeply concerned that people will be left without coverage because of these high prices. It is the duty of insurance companies and providers to explain to the people of the state why this is inevitable and there is no alternative.”
Three insurers sell policies on the exchange: Anthem Health Plans, CTCare Benefits Inc. and ConnectiCare Insurance Company Inc.
Anthem requested an average increase of 8.6 percent for individual policies that cover 27,698 people. The proposed changes range from a 1.8% decrease to a 16.1% increase, depending on the plan.
The company also looked for an average increase of 3.6% on small group policies, which cover 19,271 residents. The proposed changes range from a 1.2% decrease to a 26.3% increase.
CTCare Benefits requested an average increase of 24.1 percent for individual plans that cover 75,003 people. The proposed changes range from an increase of 18.7% to 33.2% depending on the policy.
It also requested an average increase of 22.9 percent for small group plans that cover 3,476 residents (increases ranged from 20 percent to 28.9 percent).
Insurer ConnectiCare, which sells only individual policies on the exchange, asked for an average increase of 25.2 percent for plans that cover 8,782 people. The proposed increases range from 17.1% to 32.2%.
The proposed increases “seem to make no sense,” Ide said. “Why would one carrier want an average of 8.6% in the individual market and 3.6% in the small group market, and the other carrier wants 24% and 22% in those two markets – it looks like they pulled numbers out of a hat.”
The proposed increases for non-exchange plans are also different, as the chart below shows.
Kimberly Kahn, a spokeswoman for ConnectiCare, said medical and pharmaceutical costs were part of the factors driving the rate hike request.
“We remain extremely mindful of the impact rate increases are having on our members and strive to keep our plans as fairly priced as possible within the realities of today’s healthcare environment,” Kahn said in a statement. “Our proposed rates are based on several factors, including trends in medical and pharmacy costs, along with the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on our members’ use of services, including receipt of delayed care. Also, the legislative and regulatory environment continues to present market challenges beyond the Company’s control, including the loss of the enhanced advanced premium tax credits provided through the American Rescue Plan Act, which expires in 2022, and state-mandated benefits.”
A spokesperson for Anthem could not immediately be reached for comment.
The insurance department will hold a hearing in early August where insurers will have a chance to testify about the reasoning behind their proposed increases, and the public will also be able to weigh in. A date for the meeting has not yet been set.
In addition to carriers, Doolittle said drug company officials and medical providers should attend and give their rationale for the rising costs.
“We are in a medical cost crisis,” he said. “The rate review process is the only opportunity, the only public forum, that the people of Connecticut have to ask, ‘Why?’ Why are these hospital prices so high? Why are these drugs so high?” Premiums are simply a reflection of the underlying high medical costs.
“Healthcare costs and insurance premiums are already prohibitive for many Connecticut families, businesses and individuals, and these double-digit rate hikes require strict scrutiny,” Attorney General William Tong added in a statement. “The Department of Insurance previously agreed to hold public hearings on any rate increase above 10 percent, and that transparency is certainly needed now. We cannot simply allow insurers to submit costs and claims without our own independent analysis and review.”
The public can also submit comments online. Comments can be submitted here (below each policy, click the “select” button and fill in the “comments” field, then click “submit a comment”).
Insurance department officials will make a decision on rates for the 2023 plans later this year, usually in September. Last year, even though carriers asked for an average increase of 8.6 percent on individual plans, the department instead granted an average increase of 5.6 percent.
Open enrollment for 2023 health policies begins November 1.