HARTFORD, CT — The public will get a chance to weigh in Wednesday on the proposed health insurance rate hikes for plans both on and off Connecticut’s exchange.
The average proposed 2019 rate hike for Anthem Health Plans is 9.1 percent and the ConnectiCare Benefits is requesting a 13 percent increase for individual plans.
Medical costs and uncertainty in Washington regarding regulations for non-compliant Affordable Care Act plans are driving the rate increases, according to Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade.
“The proposed increases are lower than last year, but rising medical costs continue to be the key drivers of health insurance premium rate increase requests,” Wade has said. “Of concern, however, is the ongoing uncertainty in Washington that threatens to destabilize the health insurance markets, particularly for individuals.”
A group of state attorneys general has filed a lawsuit arguing that the Affordable Care Act should be thrown out. They argue the ACA’s individual mandate – which was previously upheld by the Supreme Court based on the federal government’s power to tax – is unconstitutional now that Congress has set the tax penalty associated with the mandate to zero. That would effectively eliminate the mandate that individuals with pre-existing conditions receive coverage.
Connecticut passed legislation earlier this year, which says insurance companies must cover pre-existing conditions if the ACA is overturned and eliminated. The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. It passed the House 114-32 and the Senate 34-2, Sens. John Kissel and Joe Markley were the only votes against it.
Aside from access, affordability has been one of the biggest problems the Affordable Care Act has faced over its past four years of existence.
But affordability of health insurance is not one of the criteria the Insurance Department is allowed to look at when it determines whether the request is justified.
The Insurance Department’s job is to make sure that the premium covers the claims and it doesn’t discriminate against any specific group of clients.
The rates have to be adequate, and they can’t be excessive or unfairly discriminatory, but beyond that there’s little regulators can do to reign in costs for consumers.
The Universal Health Care Foundation, which declined to participate in the hearings last year, said it has asked for the state to adopt consumer affordability standards in response to the Insurance Department’s stance that it is by statute only required to evaluate requests to increase premium rates relative to their impact on insurance carrier solvency.
The General Assembly declined to pass legislation earlier this year to address those concerns.
“These two carriers combined cover more than 100,000 and the public will have a chance weigh in on the requests but to hear directly from the carriers their reasons behind the proposed increases,” Wade said. “Consumers also have had the ability to comment online on all the rate proposals since the public comment period began last month.”
The public hearing will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5 at the Insurance, Department’s 7th floor hearing room at 153 Market Street in Hartford.