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Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais (ctnewsjunkie photo)

HARTFORD, CT — Insurance regulators knocked down some requested health insurance rate hikes, but premiums will be going up for a majority of consumers in both the individual and small group marketplaces.

Regulators at the Department of Insurance approved an average increase for individual plans of 3.65%, significantly less than the average request of 7.78%. The average increase for small group plans will be 9.19%, which DOI reduced from an average request of 11.98%.

Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais said the reductions in premiums represent $54 million in savings to Connecticut consumers, who will be paying more in 2020 for their health insurance.

He cited medical trend, which is the increase in the cost for medical services and prescription drugs, and the federally mandated health insurer tax which accounted for an average of 3% or $53 million of the additional premium, as the reason for the increases.

“Through the hard work of the department’s actuaries and professional staff, the department was able to reduce the health insurance rate increase requests for Connecticut consumers,” Mais said in a statement late Friday afternoon. “However, there is still work to be done. I will continue to work collaboratively with all stakeholders in Connecticut’s health care system to find ways to achieve meaningful savings while continuing to promote access to some of the best health care services in the nation.”

ConnectiCare and Anthem Health Plans are the only two companies participating in Connecticut’s health insurance exchange. Both companies offer individual plans on and off the exchange.

ConnectiCare had requested a 4.9% average rate increase and regulators knocked it down to an average of 2%. However, depending on which ConnectiCare plan a consumer has, they could see a decrease in their premiums of 3.1% to an increase of 8.7%. ConnectiCare currently serves about 75,625 customers.

Anthem’s average requested rate hike of 15.2% was knocked down to an average of 6.5%. Anthem currently covers about 27,318 customers.

In the small group market, Anthem Health Plans had requested a 14.8% increase and regulators approved a 14.3% increase. Anthem currently covers about 44,103 customers through its small group plans.

Oxford Health Insurance Company requested a 14.4% increase for its small group plans and its average rate increase was knocked down to 8.4%. Oxford Health has about 40,048 customers that may be affected by the rate increases.

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care of CT and HPHC Insurance Company, Inc. requested 10.7% and 10.8% increases and were given 7.1% increases for their 15,618 customers.

CTCare Inc. and CTCare Insurance Co. requested 2.9% and 3.3% increases and were given 2.5% and 2.9% increases respectively. The companies which are subsidiaries of ConnectiCare cover 23,890 customers in the small group market.

UnitedHealthcare Insurance Co.‘s 14.3% increase for its 1,162 customers was knocked down to 8.4% and Aetna’s 22% increase was reduced to 11.1% for its 705 customers in the small group marketplace.

Rosana Ferraro, policy and program officer at the Universal Healthcare Foundation, said the insurers’ rate requests were not as high this year as they have been in the past, but there’s a cumulative effect.

She said consumers are not only on the hook for their premiums, but also they face rising out-of-pocket costs and “sky-high deductibles.”

The plans being offered by health insurance companies make it almost impossible to meet an already high deductible, which means patients are paying out-of-pocket for almost all of their care unless they end up getting really sick.

The foundation shared the results of an independent poll released in October 2018 that found that 50% of Connecticut adults experienced a problem with health care affordability in the past year.

The foundation’s research dovetails with a study by the Health Disparities Institute (HDI) at UConn Health found that nearly 86,000 medical-debt lawsuits against Connecticut patients with overdue medical bills were filed in small-claims court between 2011 and late 2016.

Dr. Victor G. Villagra, associate director of the Health Disparities Institute, said there’s no indication Connecticut’s medical debt is increasing, but there is a greater awareness of the issue.

He said it’s been a silent crisis for a long time. After implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2014 the frequency of medical debt decreased, but at the moment the only information he’s been able to obtain has been from small claims court. That means data about the amount of medical debt over $5,000 has yet to be compiled due to problems with how it’s reported in the court system.