HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut residents could see double-digit insurance rate hikes next year, after the state insurance department approved new rate increases as high as 25%.
Just three weeks after state officials questioned insurance companies about their proposed rate hikes for 2023, the Connecticut Insurance Department signed off on average rate increases of nearly 12.9% for individual plans and almost 7.9% for small groups.
Some state leaders are outraged, saying these jumps are too much for residents to bear, but the insurance department says it's the best they can do.
“Connecticut families are suffering,” said state Attorney General William Tong. “They can’t afford these double-digit rate increases. I don’t know how else to say it, this is not right.”
“The Connecticut Insurance Department tried to soften the blow for individuals and small businesses, but in the end, we're still let down,” Lynne Ide, director of program and policy for the Universal Healthcare Foundation of Connecticut, said. “It's not good enough.”
“It's very disappointing,” said Debra Dauphinais, co-owner of Bicycles East, “but it's also just very wrong.”
The average approved hike is less than what insurance companies originally requested.
Nine Connecticut insurers asked for an average rate increase of 20.4% for individual plans and nearly 14.8% for small groups, about 58 and 87% more, respectively, than what the department approved.
Opponents say these increases are still too high, pointing to record profits for these companies.
“What makes it maddening is that these health insurance companies are making these huge profits, yet they continue to raise their rates,” Dauphinais said. “It's a for profit business, just like any other product. It's not about providing access to care.”
Insurers argue the rate hikes are necessary, citing rising medical and pharmaceutical costs.
“The premiums previously approved by the insurance department were significantly below what was necessary for us to meet the needs of the members,” said Karen Moran, president of Connecticare, at the state insurance hearing in August. “We have not requested any more than we absolutely need in order to remain part of the exchange.”
Tuesday, Gov. Ned Lamont (D-Connecticut) applauded the insurance department for reducing what he calls “outrageous” rate requests. “We’re just getting started, because at the end of the day, you’ve got to deal with the underlying costs of health insurance.”
However, small business owners in the state say more still needs to done.
“Nobody should have to go through that,” said Dauphinais. “Nobody should have to not have available affordable health care.”
Going forward, advocates say the state legislature needs to take action to require the insurance department put consumer affordability front and center when considering these increases.
Tong added remedies are limited now, but his office is exploring all possibilities.
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