CT attorney general seeks halt to hearings on higher medical health insurance rates. Here’s why. – Hartford Courant

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Connecticut Attorney General William Tong on Tuesday urged the state Insurance Department to halt a planned Aug. 15 public hearing reviewing double-digit rate increases sought by health insurers as Congress considers extending a tax credit he said could reduce the necessity for higher prices.

In a letter to Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais, Tong said the U.S. Senate is predicted to debate and vote this week to increase tax credits that Anthem Health Plans and ConnectiCare Advantages Inc. assumed would expire Jan. 1.

The 2 insurers and state Insurance Department believed a Jan. 1 expiration of the tax credit was a “significant driver” behind the speed increase requests, he said.

The tax credit is on the market prematurely to cut back consumers’ monthly medical health insurance premiums.

Spokeswoman Kimberly Kann said ConnectiCare supports the advocacy by Gov. Ned Lamont, the state’s congressional delegation and advocacy groups to proceed the Advanced Premium Tax Credits provided within the American Rescue Plan Act. The improved tax credits help make insurance coverage reasonably priced, she said.

ConnectiCare will monitor the regulatory environment and update its requests as appropriate, Kann said.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Connecticut said its rates will reflect its experience and skill to “deliver on behalf of consumers on this market.”

“This premise will guide our next steps as we learn more and we are going to proceed to work with the state because the regulatory process continues,” the insurer said in an email.

The Insurance Department didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment on Tong’s call for a delayed hearing.

Insurance firms that sell policies on and off Connecticut’s Reasonably priced Care Act exchange submitted proposals in July looking for a median increase of 20.4% on individual health plans next yr. On small group plans, the carriers are asking for a median increase of 14.8%.

The proposals drew criticism from several state lawmakers and health care and consumer advocates who said the increases were excessive and will hamper health care access. Critics have said steep medical health insurance cost increases aren’t sustainable as consumers already struggle with the very best rate of inflation in 40 years.

ConnectiCare cited medical and pharmaceutical costs and the continued impacts of COVID-19 on members’ use of services, including obtaining delayed care.

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Tong and other elected officials last month asked the Insurance Department to schedule a proper hearing as a forum to query insurance executives and present an independent evaluation. Mais rejected the suggestion, saying the Insurance Department will schedule a rate hearing because it has prior to now, taking testimony from consumers, consumer advocates, elected officials and other interested parties.

Tong said possible Senate motion on the tax credit is a “significant development” and asked the Insurance Department to halt all consideration and planning for the scheduled Aug. 15 public hearing.

“The tax credit extension could be a game changer and should significantly reduce the necessity for a rise,” the attorney general said. “It will be a dereliction of our duty to consumers to proceed with a hearing on rates built on what now appears to be a foul guess.”

If Congress extends the Federal Advance Premium Tax Credits, rate increase requests should be revised and would reflect substantial savings to consumers, Tong said.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said the tax credits are a part of laws to cut back medical health insurance premiums for hundreds of families in Connecticut and can cut the fee of pharmaceuticals for seniors. The tab could be paid for by eliminating tax loopholes for billionaires and enormous corporations, he said.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the Insurance Department “must aggressively review these proposed rate hikes which can be beyond unaffordable and can put much more pressure on families already squeezed by rising costs.”

Stephen Singer could be reached at ssinger@courant.com.

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