OHS Executive Director Deidre Gifford Credit: Mike Savino photo

A new report from the Commonwealth Fund found Connecticut ranked sixth in the country on state health performance, but scored poorly in key areas such as employer-sponsored insurance costs, hospital readmission, and avoidable emergency department visits for residents ages 65 and older. 

The scorecard assesses state health system performance across eight indicators of access and affordability and 13 indicators of potentially avoidable hospital use and costs. While Connecticut ranks among the top 10 states in domains like reproductive and women’s health, income disparity, and racial and ethnic health equity, the state’s ranking plunges to 40th in avoidable hospital use and cost, 46th in ESI costs, and last in avoidable emergency department visits for those 65 and older.

Connecticut experienced a 28% increase in ESI costs, with spending per enrollee in the state rising from $5,852 in 2019 to $7,504 in 2021, significantly above the national average. In contrast, neighboring states like Oregon, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island saw increases of only 2%, 15%, and 17% respectively. Despite these increases, both employee potential out-of-pocket medical costs and total premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance plans in Connecticut remain below the national average.

Dr. Deidre Gifford, executive director of the Office of Health Strategy, expressed mixed feelings about the report, praising the state’s strong rankings in several areas but warning of an “unsustainable trend” of excessive healthcare cost growth. “With these costs rising faster than personal income, affordable care is unattainable for far too many residents,” Gifford said.

In addition to the issues with ESI costs, Connecticut also lagged in potentially avoidable emergency department visits and 30-day hospital readmissions for those aged 65 and older, although improvements were noted since 2019.

The OHS has taken note of these challenges, releasing the state’s first-ever Healthcare Cost Growth Benchmark report in March to highlight the need for healthcare reforms, Gifford said. The office is actively working with key stakeholders to develop cost growth mitigation strategies and solutions to address rising healthcare costs and improve access to affordable care for residents of the state.

When it comes to increases in health insurance offered through Connecticut’s health insurance exchange, Access Health CT, the Department of Insurance will hold a public hearing later this month to hear about the double-digit increases from some plans. 

“Connecticut can be proud of these excellent rankings in a number of domains. But the excessive healthcare cost growth in Connecticut is an unsustainable trend which is negatively impacting Connecticut residents’ ability to access affordable care,” Gifford said.