August 16—HARTFORD — Patients, doctors and elected officials from both sides of the aisle rallied Monday to denounce health insurers’ proposed 2023 rate increases and demand Connecticut Department of Insurance to disapprove the requests, calling them “appalling” and “ridiculous”.
Emergency physician, practicing for 40 years, Dr. Phil Brewer said he was strongly opposed to the increases.
“I’ve said many times that I love what I do, but unfortunately as a result of what I do, many of my patients end up bankrupt,” he said.
The pleas came during an insurance department public hearing that began with explanations of the increase from insurers Cigna and ConnectiCare.
Among insurance companies, the proposed average individual rate is 20.4%, and the proposed average small group rate for employers with 50 or fewer workers is 14.8%. For small group plans outside the state exchange, the requested increases from ConnectiCare and Cigna were 29.3% and 19.6%, respectively. Minister of Justice William Tong noted that the other four small groups of insurance providers were not represented Monday: Etna, AnthemOxford and UnitedHealthcare.
Insurance Department Spokesman Jim Carson said in an email ConnectiCare and Cigna had the largest rate requests and were the only ones invited to the hearing.
Tong testified that the current process is “insufficient to get to the bottom of these requested rate increases.” Instead, he wants to see a hearing under the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, which he says “will give us an opportunity to question witnesses and hopefully witnesses from more than the two companies that are here today.”
Commissioner of Insurance Andrew More said an informational hearing like the one held Monday is easier for public participation.
Mace said the insurance department conducts actuarial reviews of each submission to determine whether the claims are valid and will decide in September whether to approve, deny or modify the claims.
The insurance department and Office of the Health Advocate another hearing to be scheduled October 3. But Sen. Tony HuangR-Fairfieldcalled it “too little, too late.”
Hwang questioned why insurers cited inflationary pressures when they had increases in recent years without citing inflation, and noted that while they cited COVID-19 as an additional cost, there were government subsidies for health care during the pandemic.
Tong also rejected the requested increases, noting that other states do not see such high requests. Compared to 24.8% in Connecticutthe highest rate of requests for individual plans was 9.7% in Rhode Island and 15.4% in Massachusetts.
Insurers explain the demands, politicians and the public push back
The insurance department has seen a recovery in the use of health care services, Mays said.
For example, if people were not screened for cancer two years ago, when it would have been caught early, it is now harder and more expensive to treat.
Sarah Souza, an actuarial director at Cigna, said the biggest driver of its 19.6% average increase was health care trends, with 2021 claims coming in higher than expected. Cigna began participating in the small group market at July 1 since last year and Souza said “entering a new state is challenging and complicated.”
For ConnectiCare, President Karen Moran said for the past year, “the total insurance premium we’ve received is far less than the cost of care we’ve actually financed,” and that the company’s individual market losses are more than 65 million dollars.
Moran said the use of medical and pharmaceutical services in 2022 has surpassed pre-pandemic levels, and as members seek care they put off during the pandemic, ConnectiCare expects that to continue.
Neil Kelsey, ConnectiCare’s chief actuary, said the insurer projects a 6.3 percent increase in health care use this year and a 5.4 percent increase next year. This does not include an additional increase in the cost of care.
Representative Kerry WoodD-Rocky Hill, commented, “There are mixed messages from healthcare carriers. On the one hand, you’re reporting substantial profits, and on the other hand, you’re asking for double-digit increases.” Speakers at the hearing noted that Cigna’s CEO David Cordani collected more than 91 million dollars as compensation in 2021.
Wendy Sherryvice president of US commercial markets at Cigna, said the earnings under discussion “come from our broader company. We’re a global health services company, so those earnings are generated from multiple products.”
Cathy Flahertyexecutive director of Connecticut Legal Rights Project, noted that doctors recommended treatment for her long-term COVID that her insurance would not cover. She asked: “If you’re denying people care, how can you at the same time claim that your costs of providing care have gone up?”
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