Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais speaks during a meeting.
Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais speaks during a meeting. Credit: Christine Stuart / CTNewsJunkie

Last month after approving double-digit health insurance rate hikes, Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais promised to hold a hearing to further explain the rate setting process and the cost of health care. However, Oct. 3 has come and gone and no hearing has been held. Republican lawmakers made sure to point out the delay. 

“Over a decade ago Democrats promised the Affordable Care Act would deliver affordable health care. Since then, health care has only become more unaffordable,” Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly and Sen. Tony Hwang said in a statement Monday. “This year double-digit health insurance rate increases were approved in Connecticut by the Governor’s administration and a promise was made to hold a hearing on October 3 to closely examine the driving forces. That hearing is not happening today. It’s just like every other promise Democrats have made to our residents when it comes to health care affordability. Promise, delay, inaction.”

A spokesman for the Insurance Department said it wasn’t an oversight or a failure. 

“The health care cost drivers informational meeting was postponed to better allow stakeholders and participants the time to prepare for this vital discussion and provide consumers with the information they need and deserve,” Jim Carson, a spokesman for the agency, said. 

On Sept. 6, Mais held a press conference to try and explain the reason for the rate hikes, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023. 

Mais said his agency limited health insurance carriers to a .5% profit margin. Department officials said profit margins normally range between 2 and 3%.

“Now I’m sure anybody who is in business will understand that [.5%] is almost no profit and that may not be tenable in the long run, but again, this is a time for shared sacrifices and at the department, what we wanted to do is make sure we all sacrificed including the insurance companies,” Mais said.

Among the department’s considerations when approving health insurance rates are ensuring that the carriers stay solvent and are able to pay claims when they come due, Mais said. During the press conference, Deputy Commissioner Paul Lombardo also worried about the sustainability of Connecticut’s shrinking small group market.

“The remaining small group members that are in the fully-insured market that we have regulatory authority over continue to deteriorate as the small group market shrinks,” Lombardo said.

The regulators said the approved increases — an average of 12.9% for individual plans — were largely driven by the rising costs of health care and prescription drugs coupled with increased utilization of services in the aftermath of the pandemic. Those were among the topics expected to be discussed at the Oct. 3 informational hearing.

Republicans said they are sick of waiting for Democratic leaders to come up with a plan.

“We have an achievable, common-sense plan to reduce your health insurance premium, reduce prescription drug costs and seek savings in medical care so that the average family sees a premium reduction of over $6,000 a year. Why wait for more of the same? CT residents have a choice. Must we continue to wait for affordable health care? Or do you want action now to lower your health care costs?,” Kelly and Hwang said reiterating what has become a refrain on the campaign trail. 

Since the rate hikes were first announced Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which continues the federal subsidies for certain individuals who purchase their health insurance plans through Access Health CT. However, that does not offset the cost of a deductible and every plan on the exchange is considered a “high deductible” plan, which means an individual must spend up to $6,000 before getting most care they received covered by the insurance plan. 

The high cost of health care has been one of many issues in the spotlight during the gubernatorial debates.