A table of individual plan insurance rates approved by the Insurance Department
A table of individual plan insurance rates approved by the Insurance Department

The Connecticut Insurance Department approved double-digit rate hikes Friday for several state health insurance providers. At an average of 12.9%, the increases represent a lower price hike than the providers requested earlier this summer, but not by much in some cases. 

In a Friday afternoon press release, the state’s insurance regulation agency announced the highly anticipated 2023 insurance rates. Next year’s rates have been a point of contention since July, when providers asked the state to approve double-digit rate hikes for individual and small business plans. The companies asked for an average increase of 20.4% on individual plans.

The Insurance Department settled on lesser increases that were often still in the double digits. For individual plans offered on Connecticut’s insurance exchange, the department approved an increase of 6.3% for Anthem plans. That’s less than the 8.6% requested by the provider. The department reduced CTCare Benefits’ request to raise rates by 24.1% to 15%. Meanwhile, the agency reduced ConnectiCare’s rate increase from a requested 25.2% to 15%.

In the small group market, the department approved increases of an average of 7.9%, down from the average hike of 14.8% requested by insurers. 

Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais said the “skyrocketing” costs of health care contributed to the increase in rates. 

“The unit cost of hospital inpatient and outpatient care has risen about 9% per year,” Mais said. “Prescription drug prices have risen even higher. The rates announced today will continue to protect consumers from inflationary pricing and unwarranted profits while ensuring Connecticut residents have access to a stable, competitive health insurance market. But we must examine other available avenues to reduce overall costs and keep care, and this insurance, affordable.”

Despite the reductions touted by the agency, the approved rates drew immediate criticism from public officials on both sides of the aisle. Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat who called repeatedly for a hearing to question industry representatives under oath, said the new rates would worsen a healthcare system that was already unaffordable for many families.

“These double-digit rate hikes—among the highest in the country–will only make that worse,” Tong said. “While I appreciate that CID did impose substantial reductions to the requested rate hikes, this process was far too compressed and far too limited to allow for sufficient scrutiny.”

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly and Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, sought to lay blame for the rising rates on Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration. 

“The Lamont administration’s approval of these staggering rate hikes is infuriating,” Kelly and Hwang said. “It’s also tone deaf to thousands of Connecticut ratepayers whose family budgets are already getting crushed by inflation.” 

At an unrelated event Friday, Lamont called the requested rate hikes “outrageous” and said his administration would “sit down and do the hard negotiations to see what they deserve.”

In the department’s press release, Mais encouraged consumers to visit Connecticut’s health insurance exchange, Access Health Connecticut, where increased federal subsidies will help offset the cost of many plans

“Whether or not you now have an Access Health plan, you may be able to find significant savings on a top-notch product by shopping there,” Mais said.

During a hearing last month, representatives of Cigna and ConnectiCare, the companies seeking the largest increases, argued that their rate filings were appropriate given trends that have included rising health care costs and more patients utilizing services and treatments delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The department concluded that medical costs and pharmaceutical price increases are driving the rate hikes. 

Medical costs have increased about 8-10%, while prescription costs have risen about 10-12%, based on the trend experience submitted in this year’s rate filings. Increased health care use and greater severity — patients presenting at more advanced disease stages thus increasing treatment cost — have helped to drive up aggregate health care spending.

Insurance regulators are not allowed to consider affordability to the consumer when they set the rates. They are only allowed to make sure the premium will cover the claim and make sure the insurance company remains solvent.  

Lamont has been painted by health care advocates as the main obstacle to getting a public option through the legislature. A public option would be a product the comptroller’s office could offer to businesses and nonprofits that piggybacks on the Connecticut Partnership Plan, currently offered to municipal employees. 

Critics of the public option say it’s not insurance at all and would have to be backed up with taxpayer funds if premiums failed to cover the claims.