Connecticut officials who embraced the federal Affordable Care Act said they’re not going to give up trying to make it work despite recent challenges.
Two of the four insurance companies participating in Connecticut’s exchange won’t be offering plans in 2017, leaving just two companies that recently requested double-digit rate hikes.
Those challenges and news that insurance carriers across the country will no longer be participating in exchanges prompted Republican lawmakers to question the premise of the ACA and call on their Democratic colleagues to hold a public hearing.
Sen. Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, and Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, cited the double-digit rate requests by Anthem and ConnectiCare and news that companies like Humana and Aetna, neither of which participate in Connecticut’s exchange, are scaling back their participation in the ACA, as a good reason to hold a public hearing.
They suggested the legislature’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee hold a public hearing to solicit information from insurance companies about the challenges they face.
“Connecticut Democrats cannot sit by and watch as care gets more expensive and harder to access,” Fasano said. “The state’s Democrat leadership and the Democrat chairs of the Insurance Committee should immediately organize a public hearing and invite insurers in the exchange and those out of the exchange or leaving the exchange to identify what burdens they are facing to determine how we can work together to reduce the costs of care and get more people insured.”
Former Healthcare Advocate Vicki Veltri, who is now in charge of health policy for Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, said Republican lawmakers really don’t want to have a serious conversation about the ACA’s challenges.
“Rather than have a real discussion on the benefits and challenges of the Affordable Care Act, our Republican colleagues have chosen political posturing,” Veltri said.
She said nearly a million Connecticut residents have used the exchange to obtain insurance—many for the very first time.
But Fasano argued that Democrats set up a system for failure.
“They now have an obligation to fix it,” Fasano said. ”But instead they do nothing as the cost of care increases leaving people unable to afford any insurance at all.”
Veltri said the ACA has contained costs.
“Healthcare costs, rising steadily before the ACA, have now slowed—in fact, Connecticut has among the slowest premium growth in the nation,” Veltri said. “Residents no longer face higher fees simply because they’re women; residents with pre-existing health conditions can get insured; children up to age 26 are now covered; we expanded Medicaid for low-income residents, and costs are down for seniors as well. All good things for consumers.”
She said Fasano even helped author legislation in 2015 to examine the cost of healthcare. That legislation passed on a bipartisan basis and went into effect last October. However, the website it was supposed to create by July 1, 2016 to allow consumers to compare costs has not been completed. Access Health CT did not have any resources to create the website.
Sen. Joe Crisco, D-Woodbridge, who co-chairs the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, testified last week in opposition to Anthem’s proposed rate increase at a public hearing held by the Insurance Department.
He said the net income of Anthem last year was $2.5 billion. He said he thinks regulators should be able to consider the net income of the companies requesting a rate hike and suggested that next year lawmakers will be looking at legislation to change how rates will be regulated in the future.
But insurance companies told regulators last week during public hearings on their rate requests that they’re still suffering losses from their exchange business. Meanwhile, consumers told regulators that they are going without insurance because it’s too expensive and it’s cheaper to pay the penalty.
The fewer people participating in the exchange, the higher the insurance rates will continue to be.
Eric Galvin, chief financial officer of ConnectiCare, told regulators that they simply can’t afford to keep premiums where they are currently because of the high cost and utilization of medical care.
Insurance regulators have until September to decide on what the final rate increases will be for 2017.