Gov. Ned Lamont speaks at a Protect Our Care rally Credit: Christine Stuart photo

With inflation at a 40-year high and double-digit increases in health insurance premiums around the corner, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont joined with Protect Our Care Tuesday to tout the additional federal funding to subsidize health insurance premiums. 

“It’s giving people good solid coverage for $10 a month. Coverage they didn’t have before,” Leslie Dach, chairman of Protect Our Care, said. 

But not everyone who purchases their health insurance through Access Health CT pays that amount. About 70% of the individuals received a reduced rate on their premiums, while another 30% get no help in lowering their monthly premiums. 

Some of the bronze plans are high-deductible plans and some of the silver plans offer co-pays for certain services before the deductible kicks in, which means that some people are paying large amounts of money for specific care or hospitalizations. 

“Is it perfect? No. Do I wish it cost less money? Yes,” Dach said. 

Lamont has been touting the Covered Connecticut plan, which will eventually cover 40,000 low-income individuals who don’t qualify for Husky and are working families on the margins. However, most of the 100,000 individuals on the exchange won’t receive the same amount of help to offset the monthly cost of health insurance. 

“I don’t think it’s fair to say we are done, but I don’t think it’s fair to say we haven’t made progress,” Dach said.

Protect Our Care is traveling the country in a large bus to communicate the benefits of the Inflation Reduction Act, which gave an additional three years of federal subsidies to lower the cost of monthly premiums for plans purchased through the exchange. Passed along party lines, the new law also caps at $2,000 the out-of-pocket expenses of prescription drugs for seniors on Medicare by allowing the government to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over drug prices. 

“We all know how high health care prices take a devastating toll on families when someone gets sick,” Dach said. “After years of big drug companies and special interests pulling the strings, President Biden and Democrats in Congress delivered lower prescription drug and health care costs to millions of people — with help already on the way.” 

Lamont, who doesn’t have a plan on the exchange, said the state has made progress on lowering health insurance rates.

“We’re making health care more affordable, for more people than ever before,” Lamont said. 

He said Covered Connecticut doesn’t cover everyone, but “at least that expands it with no out-of-pocket costs for that group of people.” 

John Carbone, who heads up the small business division for Access Health CT, said the deductible doesn’t come into play for a lot of services, just the most costly ones like hospitalizations. He said annual exams like mammograms, colonoscopies and physicals have co-pays that come into play before the deductible with some silver plans. 

“There’s a big misconception that all the plans on the exchange are deductible first plans,” Carbone said.  

But regardless of the subsidies, health insurance premiums are rising for almost all 17 plans offered by the exchange. 

Last month, the Connecticut Insurance Department approved on average 12.9% increases for individuals who purchase their insurance through the exchange. In the small group market, the department approved increases of an average of 7.9%.

Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais has 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.”

He said the rates for 2023 “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.”

The rate increases drew criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.

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.”

Republican lawmakers were equally critical and Lamont’s Republican opponent, Bob Stefanowski, pointed out during last month’s debate that the cost of health insurance is about more than monthly premiums.

Stefanowski said he agrees with Lamont that they need to work on lowering prescription drug prices, but they also need to address the issue of surprise bills when a provider is out-of-network. 

“We need to stop talking about it and actually do something about it,” Stefanowski said. “People are struggling. Nothing has happened in the last four years.”

Republican lawmakers, like Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly, have said even with the new “federal bailout money, Connecticut residents are still facing staggering increases.” 

“Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act promising affordable, accessible, quality health care. Here we are a decade later and that promise has never been fulfilled,” Kelly said.