Blumenthal seeks delay in Anthem rate hearing

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has asked the Connecticut Insurance Department to postpone a public hearing scheduled for Wednesday on a proposed rate increase for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance plans, saying that “critical evidence” is not yet available.

Anthem has until 1 p.m. Tuesday to respond to Blumenthal’s motion, as well as one filed by the office of the healthcare advocate. The hearing officer will issue a decision late Tuesday, according to the insurance department.

Blumenthal said the insurer did not disclose information including its methodology for projecting higher medical costs, historical costs, what portion of premium revenue is allocated to surplus, and what dividends Anthem pays to its parent company. He wants the insurance department to demand data from the insurer.

“This public hearing will be a mirage without critical data on this massive 20-percent rate hike,” Blumenthal said in a statement released by his office. “The Insurance Department must delay or deny this rate increase until it can properly review and analyze all the facts.”

The hearing, scheduled for 9 a.m., at 153 Market St., in Hartford, is likely to draw a crowd critical of both the insurer and the department. An earlier set of Anthem rate increases, attributed in part to requirements of the health reform law, sparked intense criticism, including calls to oust Insurance Commissioner Thomas Sullivan. He left the job last week after taking a position in the private sector.

The insurance plans at issue in this week’s hearing are “grandfathered,” meaning they will not be subject to all of the provisions of the health reform law that have taken effect.

Anthem spokeswoman Sarah Yeager said the main drivers of premium increases are health care costs and utilization. The company is concerned about “rapidly increasing claims cost” in the state, which the company’s analysis suggests is growing by double digits, and committed to bringing down costs, she said in a statement.

“We believe our rate filing is actuarially sound in relation to the benefits provided and the underlying risks associated with this pool,” she said. “We remain concerned however, about the increasing cost of care and its adverse effect on premiums, our members and Connecticut consumers.”

The Connecticut State Medical Society sought intervenor status to contest the proposed rate increases, saying Anthem has cited rising medical costs as a justification for seeking higher premiums, even though insurance payments to physicians have been stagnant or declining.

The insurance department denied the medical society’s request, prompting a medical society official to call for a “sea change” in the department under the new administration.

“It’s high time that the pens and cups that cover staff desks and the signs in the bathrooms at [the insurance department] stopped carrying health insurance company logos,” the official, Executive Vice President Matthew C. Katz, said in a statement.