Echoing comments made by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius six members of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation called on the state Insurance Department to be vigilant about proposed health insurance hikes related to the new federal health care reform.

U.S. Reps. Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro, John Larson, Chris Murphy, and Jim Himes sent this letter to Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Thomas Sullivan and argued that the costs associated with the new health care law are “negligible.” They used Connecticut companies that adopted dependent coverage before the deadline as examples of how the new regulations can be implemented at no cost.

They used United Technologies Corp., Lego, and Mohegan Sun, all companies that self-insure, as examples.

While most of the new health reform doesn’t go into effect until 2014, the lawmakers conceded that there are a few changes these companies will need to make before the end of September. Adult dependent coverage, the elimination of lifetime limits, regulated annual limits, and the removal of pre-existing condition exclusions for children, to name a few.

“While we understand that requiring additional benefits may come with some extra costs, empirical evidence suggests that the costs for these specific changes are relatively low, and in some cases negligible,” Connecticut’s delegation wrote. “In light of the pending deadline for these insurance reforms, we would encourage you to remain vigilant of excessive rate increase requests by insurance providers that surpass expected costs of these changes.” 

In June lawmakers asked the Insurance Department to re-examine Anthem’s premium increase following request of nearly 40 percent in California. Connecticut agreed to give Anthem a rate increases between 13 and 20 percent, not the 22 to 32 percent rate increases it had requested for various individual plans.

“Passage of the PPACA should not be a shield for exorbitant premium increases and Connecticut’s recent receipt of a $1 million Premium Rate Review Grant should help ensure that consumer protection is prioritized,” the Congressional delegation wrote.

Debra Korta, spokeswoman for the Insurance Department, said the state will continue to “review premium rate requests with the same level of vigor and scrutiny that we have employed in the past.” But she warned lawmakers that there are new requirements under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

“While some of the new requirements under health care reform have already been adopted into Connecticut law, such as dependent coverage, several have not. As a result, when benefit levels are increased it is not unexpected to see commensurate increases in premium levels,“ Korta added.

U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, who helped usher through the new reforms, sent out a statement Wednesday evening responding to this story in the Hartford Courant.

The Courant article found that some insurance companies are asking for immediate rate hikes of more than 20 percent and citing the new reform law as one of the reasons.

“Connecticut families have suffered from skyrocketing health insurance prices and the industry’s abusive practices for far too long,” said Dodd. “To now try to attribute a more than 20 percent proposed rate hike to the new health care reform law after years of continually proposing comparable double-digit rate hikes in Connecticut is both reprehensible and dishonest.“

“I urge the state to thoroughly review this request and use the $1 million in federal funding it was recently awarded under the new health care reform law to protect Connecticut consumers and families and prevent these unreasonable rate hikes,” said Dodd.

The state received $1 million in federal funds to investigate rate hikes.