Connecticut Residents and Advocates Rally Against Proposed Health Insurance Rate Hikes


On Tuesday, August 31, 2021, several residents, advocates and elected officials gathered at a press conference to criticize the proposed health insurance rate hikes for plans starting in 2024. They urged the Connecticut Insurance Department to reject the increases and protect consumers from paying more for their health care coverage.

The proposed average rate increase for individual health plans next year is 8.6%, compared to a request of 6.3% in 2021. The suggested rate hikes range from 5.1% to 12.3%, depending on the policy. For small group plans, the proposed average rate increase is 12.9%, compared to 11.3% in 2021. The recommended rate hikes range from 7.4% to 15.8%.

Connecticut Residents and Advocates Rally Against Proposed Health Insurance Rate Hikes
Connecticut Residents and Advocates Rally Against Proposed Health Insurance Rate Hikes

Ted Doolittle, the state’s health care advocate, said that the rate hikes are unjustified and unreasonable, especially during a pandemic that has caused financial hardship and health insecurity for many Connecticut residents.

“Connecticut consumers deserve better than this,” Doolittle said. “They deserve affordable, quality health care that meets their needs and does not break their budgets.”

Doolittle also said that the insurance department should consider the impact of the federal American Rescue Plan Act, which provides subsidies to lower the cost of premiums for people who buy plans on the state’s Affordable Care Act exchange, Access Health CT.

“The American Rescue Plan Act is a game-changer for health care affordability in Connecticut,” Doolittle said. “It has made health insurance more accessible and affordable for tens of thousands of Connecticut residents, and it should be factored into the rate review process.”

Residents Share Their Stories of Struggling with High Health Care Costs

Several residents who attended the press conference shared their personal stories of how high health care costs have affected their lives and well-being.

Diane Keefe, a Norwalk resident, said that she pays $43,200 a year for a family of four with $5,000 deductibles to Aetna, and she is on Cobra. She said that she cannot afford any increase in her premiums, and that her family is suffering.

“Families are struggling to pay for food, rent, utilities, and other basic needs,” Keefe said. “We are not asking for a handout. We are asking for fair and reasonable rates that reflect the actual cost of health care.”

Isabelle Barbour, a Hartford resident, said that she was stuck with a bill of more than $34,000 after her child needed inpatient care at Middlesex Hospital, despite having two types of insurance coverage. She said that she was devastated by the unexpected expense, and that she felt betrayed by her insurance company.

“These are people’s lives. These are people’s children. These are not just numbers,” Barbour said. “I urge the insurance department to reject the rate hikes and stand up for consumers like me.”

Tenaya Taylor, another Hartford resident, said that she suffers from multiple conditions that are not covered by state insured care, such as endometriosis and dental procedures. She said that she has a lot of out-of-pocket expenses, and that any increase in her rates would be unaffordable for her.

“I have loved ones who are barely covered by insurance, who are living paycheck to paycheck, taking care of children, transportation and family, and additional hikes just would not be sustainable for their overall health,” Taylor said.

Elected Officials Support Consumer Advocacy and Demand Accountability from Insurance Companies

Some elected officials also joined the press conference to express their support for consumer advocacy and demand accountability from insurance companies.

State Senator Saud Anwar, D-South Windsor, called the proposed rate hikes “discriminatory” and “unconscionable”. He said that they would negatively impact the people who are poor and minorities in the state, and that they would lead to more people being uninsured or underinsured.

“The last year and a half has been a nightmare for the average citizen in our state and for most businesses,” Anwar said. “We are not in the position to be able to survive an increase of this capacity.”

State Comptroller Kevin Lembo, who oversees the state’s health plan for public employees and retirees, said that he has been fighting against excessive rate increases for years. He said that he has challenged insurance companies to justify their requests based on data and evidence, not assumptions and projections.

“We have seen time and time again that these rate requests are not based on reality,” Lembo said. “They are based on inflated projections of medical costs and utilization that do not materialize.”

Lembo also said that he has advocated for more transparency and accountability in the rate review process, such as allowing public comment and input from independent experts.

“We need to make sure that this process is fair, open and rigorous,” Lembo said. “We need to make sure that consumers have a voice and a seat at the table.”

Attorney General William Tong, who has the authority to intervene in rate cases, said that he has filed a motion to oppose the proposed rate hikes. He said that he has reviewed the filings and found them to be “flawed, incomplete and inaccurate”.

“These rate hikes are based on fuzzy math and faulty assumptions,” Tong said. “They are not supported by the facts or the law.”

Tong also said that he has asked the insurance department to hold a public hearing on the rate requests, and that he will present his arguments and evidence at the hearing.

“We will fight these rate hikes every step of the way,” Tong said. “We will not let the insurance companies get away with this.”

Insurance Companies Defend Their Rate Requests and Cite Rising Health Care Costs

The insurance companies that have filed for rate increases have defended their requests and cited rising health care costs as the main driver of their rate adjustments.

Anthem Health Plans and ConnectiCare Benefits Inc., which sell individual and small group policies on the exchange, Access Health CT, are both seeking higher rates. Anthem has asked for an average hike of 12.3% for its individual plans that cover 28,701 people. ConnectiCare Benefits is requesting an average increase of 7.4% for individual policies that cover 81,852 residents. Both are also seeking rate hikes for small group plans. Anthem asked for an average increase of 11.5% for policies that cover 25,529 people, while ConnectiCare sought an average hike of 13.6% for plans that cover 1,786 residents.

Ten insurers are also selling policies off the exchange. The proposed increases vary by plan.

In their filings, the insurance companies have cited several factors that contribute to their rate requests, such as:

  • The impact of COVID-19 on health care utilization and costs, including testing, treatment and vaccination.
  • The increase in medical inflation and prescription drug costs, especially for specialty drugs and biologics.
  • The increase in demand for mental health and substance abuse services, especially during the pandemic.
  • The increase in morbidity and risk profile of their enrollees, especially those who have deferred or delayed care due to COVID-19.
  • The uncertainty and volatility of the health care market and regulatory environment.

The insurance companies have also claimed that they have taken steps to mitigate the impact of their rate increases on consumers, such as:

  • Applying rebates and refunds to their customers based on their medical loss ratios, which measure how much of their premium revenue they spend on medical claims.
  • Offering a variety of plan options and benefit designs to meet different needs and budgets of their customers.
  • Participating in state and federal programs that provide subsidies and tax credits to lower the cost of premiums for eligible customers.
  • Implementing programs and initiatives that promote quality, efficiency and value in health care delivery, such as care coordination, disease management and wellness incentives.

The insurance department is expected to make a decision on the rate requests by late September or early October. The public can submit comments on the rate filings until September 15 through the department’s website.


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