Summer in New England is quite nice – our Northeastern friends often enjoy somewhat cooler temps than the rest of the country.
Unless you’re an insurance plan, in Connecticut. Then you’re (appropriately) in the hot seat.
Since last fall, we’ve been following the noble quest of Connecticut Attorney General William Tong as he pushes back against double digit premium increases in his state.
But in case you’re new to Un-covered, we’ll give you a quick recap. First, it’s important to know that insurance companies have to file their requested premiums every year with state Departments of Insurance. Every state does it a little differently, but around midsummer, insurers start submitting their requests. Unsurprisingly, they usually request increases.
Most of the time, this all happens without much hubbub. Not in Connecticut.
Last year, insurers in Connecticut filed an average increase request of 8.6 percent for individuals and 12.9 percent for small group plans. This was after two extremely profitable pandemic years, we might add.
AG Tong wasn’t having it, and submitted comments to the Connecticut Insurance Department, asking for the “highest level of scrutiny” by regulators. In the end, they approved an average increase of 5.6% for individuals and 6.7% for small groups, a substantial cut from the initial filings.
AG Tong, again (emphasis ours): “While I recognize that the Connecticut Insurance Department did not give insurers all that they asked for, these rate hikes are still far too high. I am not convinced any increase was warranted based on trends we are seeing in our own state and nationwide.”
What kind of trends? Insurers argue they need to increase premiums because healthcare costs are so high. But the latest Consumer Price Index from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows medical care costs have risen just over 3 percent in the last 12 months – despite overall inflation at 9 percent. In fact, medical care represents the smallest increase for any category tracked in the report. And that 3 percent is nowhere close to the rates payors are requesting for 2023.
Which brings us to today. Insurance companies have asked the Connecticut Department of Insurance to approve average rate hikes of 20.4 percent for individual health plans and 14.8 percent for small group plans.
But don’t worry. Our man Tong is on it. According to the Hartford Courant, he’s asked for a formal hearing, where he plans to find out whether these rates really add up:
“We want to test face-to-face what they’re saying,” Attorney General William Tong said at a Hartford news conference. “We want to put on actuarial, mathematical evidence that supports our position that these increases are extreme and unnecessary right now and too burdensome and unreasonable and give an opportunity for insurers and their actuaries and their experts to do the same.”
It is worth noting, a public hearing is standard procedure – stakeholders will have the opportunity to speak up about these proposed rates at a to-be-scheduled hearing in August.
Now, if last year is any indication, it won’t be a slam dunk for the health plans – but they’ll probably still walk away with extra premium dollars, which could mean even higher profits next year. Even so, we appreciate the keen eye of AG Tong, and hope other states are ensuring the same level of scrutiny.