CT insurance commish rebuffs AG in search of halt to hearings on medical insurance rates. Here’s why. [Hartford Courant] – InsuranceNewsNet


Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais on Tuesday rebuffed Attorney General William Tong who urged the state Insurance Department to halt a planned Aug. 15 public hearing reviewing double-digit rate increases sought by health insurers.

Tong asked the agency to attend as Congress considers extending a tax credit he said could reduce the necessity for higher prices.

In a letter to Mais, Tong said the U.S. Senate is anticipated 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 extension could be a game changer and will significantly reduce the necessity for a rise,” the attorney general said. “It could 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.

In his response to Tong, Mais rejected as inaccurate the argument that the top to the subsidies Dec. 31 would drive the double-digit rate increase requests. The expiring tax credits were never identified in the speed filings as a “significant” cost driver, he said.

The Aug. 15 meeting will proceed, Mais said.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the insurance carriers will need to have their rates set by early September for the health exchange to be prepared for open enrollment set to start Nov. 1, he said.

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 inexpensive, 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 talent 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.

Insurance firms that sell policies on and off Connecticut’s Inexpensive Care Act exchange submitted proposals in July in search of a median increase of 20.4% on individual health plans next 12 months. 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 insurance cost increases will not be 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.

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 previously, taking testimony from consumers, consumer advocates, elected officials and other interested parties.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said the tax credits will cut the fee of prescribed drugs for seniors. And U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., urged the Insurance Department “to aggressively review these proposed rate hikes which are beyond unaffordable.”

Stephen Singer may be reached at [email protected].

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