Health insurance rate hikes targeted

Thousands of people have died in Connecticut because of their lack of health insurance says a report released today, and a group of state officials say the findings show the need for more scrutiny of rate increases.

“Let’s have accountability on these rate increases,” said House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan.

Currently the Connecticut Insurance Department regulates the increases, but a bill being discussed during today’s public hearing would give the attorney general and the state’s health care advocate authority to appeal the insurance commissioner’s rate decisions in court. It would also require making public the supporting evidence justifying a price increase and require public hearings to review every increase.

Insurance Commissioner Thomas R. Sullivan testified today that he opposes the proposal because “it will lead to a reduction in the number of health insurers” in Connecticut and prices should be based actuarial data, not what someone considers reasonable.

But Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said during a press conference he doesn’t believe the data will back up the increases.

“There’s no real justification for many of these raises,” he said, accusing the insurance industry of just boosting their own profits with the increases.

Echoing that sentiment, Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guildford, said the recent report showing that almost every rate increase was accepted as-is, shows the state’s insurance commissioner “acts like a representative of the insurance industry.”

If the bill becomes law Connecticut would be the first state to establish a rate approval process based on what someone deems affordable, Sullivan said.

Public Health Committee House Cochairwoman Elizabeth B. Ritter, D-Waterford, said she has no problem with being the first, “we should lead” and should not wait on a federal rescue to solve the problem.

A nonprofit pushing for a national health reform, Families USA, reports in the past 15 years 294,000 adults — 2,100 in Connecticut — ages 25 to 64 years old have died due to the lack of health insurance.

Read the CTMirror story on the proposed bill here.