This is a picture of Access Health's New Britain store
Access Health's New Britain store Arielle Levin Becker / CTMirror file photo
This is a picture of Access Health's New Britain store
Arielle Levin Becker / CTMirror file photo

Washington – Anthem and ConnectiCare said on Wednesday they will continue to sell policies on the Access Health CT exchange next year, but charge a lot more for most policies.

The Connecticut Insurance Department said it had approved an average 31.7 percent rate increase on the policies Anthem offers individuals next year, both on and off the Access Health CT exchange.

The insurance department also approved an average 27.7 percent increase for ConnectiCare individual policies sold on the exchange in 2018. Most ConnectiCare policies sold to individuals off the exchange have an approved rate hike of 27.8 percent.

An average rate increase of 25.4 percent was approved for Anthem small group policies purchased by Connecticut businesses and non-profits.

Actual increases customers pay will vary greatly depending on the plan they purchase, but all are in the double digits.

Both Anthem and ConnectiCare had said uncertainty over the future of the Affordable Care Act and federal cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments that subsidize out-of-pocket costs for low-income Americans had made them uncertain they would continue to offer policies on Connecticut’s ACA exchange.  They also had asked the Connecticut Insurance Department for substantial rate increases

“We are pleased to continue providing individual plans, on and off-exchange, statewide in 2018, allowing consumers continued access to the Anthem coverage that they know and trust,” Anthem said in a statement. “Consistent with this commitment to the individual marketplace, and recognizing the volatility that remains, we will continue to advocate for solutions that will create long-term stability for the market.”

If both insurers had decided to quit the Access Health CT exchange, there would have been no way for more than 70,000 Connecticut policyholders to receive help from the federal government to pay their monthly premiums.

Also, 44,000 Connecticut policyholders who have the cost of their co-payments and deductibles subsidized through the CSR program would have lost this help.

Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade said rates for “silver” policies sold on the exchange were driven higher based in part on the assumption that the federal CSR payments would be discontinued. Those who buy silver-tiered policies are the only ones eligible for help with out-of-pocket costs. The higher cost of the silver plans was reflected in a higher average rate increase.

“This has been a challenging year for all involved due to the uncertainty about federal funding for the Cost Sharing Reductions (CSR) payments and individual market stability challenges. CSR payments are important financial relief for consumer out-of-pocket costs,”  Wade said.

Gov. Dannel Malloy said, “With President Trump and Republicans in Congress attempting to sabotage the American healthcare system, we are incredibly pleased that Anthem and ConnectiCare will be offering health insurance plans in 2018 through Access Health CT.”

Many Connecticut residents, who are eligible for federal help in paying their premiums, will not notice much of an increase in the cost of their premiums next year.

But those who do not receive that help — more than 26 percent of the individual customers on the Access Health CT exchange — will see sharp increases in their premium costs.

The rate hike approvals come as Congress wrestles with the Affordable Care Act’s future.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump once again urged lawmakers to approve a plan to replace and repeal the Affordable Care Act, pressing for a quick vote on a bill introduced by Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

“Obamacare has been a complete nightmare for the many Americans who have been devastated by its skyrocketing healthcare premiums and deductibles and canceled or shrinking plans,” Trump said. “As I have continued to say, inaction is not an option, and I sincerely hope that Senators Graham and Cassidy have found a way to address the Obamacare crisis.”

The Cassidy-Graham plan would give states full authority to craft their own health care systems – with some financial aid from the federal government — and turn the money the federal government gives states to run their Medicaid program into block grants.

On the other end of the political spectrum, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Wednesday introduced his long awaited “Medicare for All” bill, which would establish a “single-payer” government-run plan to replace private insurance.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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