Next Wednesday, the Insurance Department will be holding a hearing to address a proposed rate hike by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, which would increase the premiums for some individual plan policy holders by 20 percent, effective on Jan 1.
The hearing comes two weeks after Insurance Commissioner Thomas R. Sullivan resigned from the post after lawmakers and healthcare advocates called for him to step down for approving another Anthem rate hike, this one for a 47 percent increase, without a public hearing.
Earlier today, Gov. M. Jodi Rell appointed Barbara Spear as acting Commissioner of the Insurance Department to fill the position until the Governor-elect Dan Malloy appoints someone to the post to take over when his administration takes office in January.
Prior to his resignation, Sullivan defended the rate hikes as necessary, due to increased cost incurred by insurance companies because of greater coverage requirements included in the new federal health care bill.
However, according to Anthem, the latest premium hike unlike the 47 percent increase in October has little to do with federal health care reform, in fact it applies to plans that were unaffected by the law.
In a statement, the company said that it submitted to the Insurance Department “revised medical and prescription drug rates for our Grandfathered Individual health insurance plans such as Direct Pay BlueCare HMO, Century Preferred, Lumenos, and Tonik. This filing is for those ‘grandfathered’ products that are not subject to some of the new requirements of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).”
The increased cost to costumers, Anthem is attributing to medical risks and the continually rising cost of health care in Connecticut.
But the Connecticut State Medical Society (CSMS), the state’s largest physician organization, has taken exception the insurance giant’s explanation, noting that the company has not increased payments to healthcare providers.
“Anthem is asking patients to pay a higher percentage of their medical costs through raising premiums, co-pays and out-of-network charges but challenging physicians to justify the cost of care,” Matthew C. Katz, the group’s executive vice president, said in a statement.
On Tuesday the CSMS filed a petition with the Insurance Department for intervenor status to oppose the rate increase at the Nov. 17 hearing.
Though Anthem calls the hike an actuarially sound response to an internally-generated report that predicted healthcare costs to increase in the double-digits, a CSMS statement said the insurance company will have to explain those numbers in a public forum on Nov. 17.
“Anthem should have to justify how it can ask for more hard-earned money from patients when it is unwilling to pay physicians what they are owed for providing medical care,” the statement said.
The hearing will be held 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Insurance Department’s offices, 153 Market Street, Hartford.