This story was updated Friday afternoon.
The cost of health insurance plans on and off Connecticut’s Affordable Care Act Exchange will increase next year by as much as 25%, according to final numbers released by the state Friday, deepening concerns about health care access.
Insurance officials signed off on the rate changes eight weeks after carriers proposed an average increase of 20.4% across individual plans and 14.8% across small group policies. The department approved an average hike of 12.9% on individual plans and 7.9% on small group.
The approved changes range from a decrease of 6% on certain policies to increases of 20% and 25% on others.
While the average rate hike approved by the state is lower than what insurance companies had requested, it still represents a significant boost in costs to consumers in the coming year.
“The department’s hard-working actuaries and professional staff were able to reduce the health insurance rate increase requests. But the skyrocketing cost of health care that these premiums cover must be addressed,” Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais said in a statement. “The unit cost of hospital inpatient and outpatient care has risen about 9% per year. Prescription drug prices have risen even higher.
“The rates announced today will continue to protect consumers from inflationary pricing and unwarranted profits while ensuring Connecticut residents have access to a stable, competitive health insurance market. But we must examine other available avenues to reduce overall costs and keep care, and this insurance, affordable.”
Residents and health care advocates had urged state insurance officials to reject the substantial rate hikes. On Friday, they reiterated their concerns about how the finalized rates would affect health care access and affordability.
“Health care costs and insurance premiums were already unaffordable for many Connecticut families and small businesses,” Attorney General William Tong said Friday. “These double-digit rate hikes – among the highest in the country – will only make that worse.”
“I’m glad the insurance department did a thoughtful review and came forth with cuts to the outlandish requested rate increases. But it’s still too high,” State Health Care Advocate Ted Doolittle said. “I’m concerned about access [to coverage] with these still-large rate hikes.”
Lynne Ide, program lead for communications outreach and engagement at the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, said the General Assembly should pass legislation giving the insurance department “more teeth” in the rate review process, including making consumer affordability a priority.
“The end result is that hardworking individuals and small businesses who are trying to provide insurance to their employees are left hanging,” she said. “We need more time for these rates to be reviewed. And we need ways for other points of view to be inserted – in a true way – into the process. We need to require that [the insurance department] puts consumer affordability front and center.”
ConnectiCare Benefits Inc., which sells plans on and off the exchange, requested an average hike of 24% for individual policies on the exchange. The insurance department signed off on an average increase of 15%, with hikes ranging from 10% to 23.6%, depending on the plan. The on-exchange plan covers 75,003 people.
ConnectiCare Benefits also asked for an average increase of 22.9% on its small group policies offered through the exchange. The department approved 15%, with increases ranging from 13.1% to 18.9%, depending on the plan. The policies cover 3,476 people.
Anthem Health Plans, which sells policies to 27,698 people through the exchange, requested an average increase of 8.6% on its individual plans. The insurance department approved an average of 6.3%. Depending on the policy, rate changes range from a decrease of 3.9% to an increase of 13.6%.
Anthem sought a 3.6% average hike on its small group plans. The department approved an average decrease of 1.4%. Changes range from a decrease of 6% to an increase of 20.2% for policies that cover 19,271 people.
ConnectiCare Insurance Company, which offers plans on and off the exchange, requested an average hike of 25.2% for its individual policies on the exchange. The department signed off on a 15% increase. Increases range from 9.1% to 20.3%, depending on the plan. There are 8,782 people enrolled in the exchange plans.
Off-exchange policies range from a 0% increase (Aetna Life Insurance small group) to an increase of 25.1% (an individual plan through ConnectiCare Benefits).
ConnectiCare has attributed its increases to rising medical and pharmaceutical costs, as well as delayed care due to the pandemic.
Karen Moran, ConnectiCare’s president, said at a public hearing in August that the company sustained over $65 million in losses in the individual market over the last year because rate increases have not kept up with higher utilization of medical services and the cost of prescription drugs, among other expenses.
“For an insurance program to be sustainable, rates must be adequate to provide for payment of claims and the administrative costs of running the program. For the past year, the total insurance premiums we have received are far less than the cost of care we’ve actually funded,” she said. “The premiums previously approved by the insurance department were significantly below what was necessary for us to meet the needs of the members. … The single most important driver in our proposed rate increase is to restore rates to an adequate level.”
Cigna, which offers small group policies off the exchange, had asked for an average hike of 19.6% on its plans. The insurance department signed off on 12%.
Sarah Souza, small group actuarial director for Cigna, said last month that even with the increases for 2023 plans, the company’s premiums would be lower than the market average.
“For silver plans, which are the most popular amongst small employers, we have the lowest plan in six out of the eight rating areas representing the vast majority of where small employers are located,” she said.
Open enrollment for 2023 health policies begins on Nov. 1.