Hugh McQuaid photo
State Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri (Hugh McQuaid photo)

State Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri was successful in getting the state Insurance Department to hold a public hearing on Anthem’s proposed 2015 rate increase, but it wasn’t until the last day of the public comment period in June that she learned ConnectiCare’s rate increase was higher than initially estimated.

According to documents filed with the Insurance Department, ConnectiCare Benefits, which offers individual plans on the exchange, had proposed a 2015 rate increase that averaged out to about 11.8 percent more overall, depending upon which plan you bought. However, in a subsequent filing on June 23 — the final day of the public comment period — the company said the average increase was 12.8 percent.

Neither of those increases would have been high enough to trigger a public hearing under the informal agreement Veltri has with the Insurance Department, but the change to 12.8 percent from 11.8 percent was information consumers didn’t have before the final day of the public comment period.

Veltri wrote the Insurance Department and ConnectiCare on July 2 asking for an explanation of the rate increase.

“ConnectiCare understands that the State Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri, has submitted a letter to Thomas Leonardi, Commissioner, Connecticut Insurance Department (CID), regarding ConnectiCare’s recent rate filing for on-exchange products. We will continue to work with the CID to address any questions that the CID may have with respect to ConnectiCare’s filings,” the company said in a statement.

Meanwhile, even though none of the individual rates under the ConnectiCare plan would increase more than 14.3 percent, it would be unlikely that the Insurance Department would have agreed to a public hearing even though Veltri would have liked to have one. But she said that by the time she saw the final rate increase, it was too late.

The Insurance Department did agree to have a public hearing on Anthem’s rate increase, which averaged 12.5 percent, but went all the way up on some plans to 17.38 percent.

After Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy vetoed a bill in 2011 that would have mandated a public hearing for any rate increase over 10 percent, Veltri and other advocates pressed the Insurance Department to agree to four public hearings per year for rate increases over 15 percent.

“Because of the broad public interest in ensuring a full and transparent vetting of concerns about proposed rate increases, it is critical that the rate filings are subject to public scrutiny,” Veltri has said. “The viability of the Health Insurance Exchange also depends on ensuring that we use this opportunity to ensure that the policies sold are as affordable as they can be while also maintaining actuarial soundness.”

In its rate filing, ConnectiCare argues that it needs the increase because of “increasing medical costs and greater demand for medical services.” The company anticipates that those two trend factors will increase medical costs 10.7 percent. The company also is factoring in $14.68 per member per month for “fees associated with federal health care reform.”

The Insurance Department will make the final determination on rates for Anthem, ConnectiCare, and HealthyCT. HealthyCT, the new nonprofit insurer, is the only company to request a decrease in rates — an average decrease of 8.9 percent depending upon which plan — at the end of July.