Officials take aim at Anthem rate increases

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is calling for an independent investigation into the most recent double-digit rate increases approved for numerous Anthem Health Plans for Connecticut residents. Likewise, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell yesterday asking her to do the same.

The move comes after Anthem proposed a 39 percent rate increase in California, and an independent audit determined that flawed data was used by Anthem, which soon thereafter withdrew its request.

In Connecticut, the Insurance Department approved a 16.5 percent rate increase in August, and Blumenthal and state Health Care Advocate Kevin Lembo said the data must be independently audited.

“Connecticut consumers deserve to know that they are not paying excessive rate increases based on faulty math and flawed actuarial analysis,” they wrote Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell and ID Commissioner Thomas R. Sullivan today.

The group wants Anthem to be responsible for picking up the cost of the audit.

The Insurance Department will also look again at the 16.5 percent approved increase, Sullivan said.

“I have directed my staff to leave no stone unturned. The Department will be reviewing Anthem’s filings once again to make sure that the discrepancies found … are not found here in Connecticut,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said the Insurance Department spent 250 hours analyzing Anthem’s initial application, which in the end was rejected. The final approved rate increase was less than half the amount requested.

A bill approved by the House last week will completely reorganize how insurance rate increases are approved. Currently the Insurance Department has sole discretion, but the bill would require public hearing to review every increase and make public the supporting evidence justifying a price increase.

The Senate has until midnight to vote in favor of the bill or it dies on the calendar.

Sullivan has said he does not support the bill because rate decisions should be based on actuarial data, not subjective opinions about affordability.

A report released earlier this year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services cited predictions that rates will increase 20, 25 and 30 percent nationwide and “most states don’t have the legal authority to block or reduce health insurance rate increases.”