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State officials question insurance companies about proposed double-digit rate hikes

“I was shocked, frankly,” said state attorney general William Tong before the six-hour hearing Monday.

HARTFORD, Conn. — State officials questioned insurance companies for six hours Monday, about their proposed double-digit rate hikes for 2023.

The meeting comes after the U.S. House passed the “Inflation Reduction Act” Friday, aiming to lower health care costs.

RELATED: Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act Friday. Here's what it will do.

The hearing started around 9 a.m. Monday, with the goal of allowing state legislators and the public to comment on the proposed rate increases.

Insurers are seeking an average rate bump of 20.4% for the individual market and nearly 15% for small groups.

“I almost fell out of my chair,” said Lynne Ide, director of program and policy at Universal Healthcare Foundation of Connecticut.

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“I was shocked, frankly,” added state attorney general William Tong.

Liz Dupont-Diehl, associate director of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group, said, “people will suffer. People will go without healthcare.”

The rate increase requests are from nine Connecticut insurers. There are 13 filings for plans covering around 206,000 people.

The average ask for 2023 is over 137% more than the increase companies requested last year.

“Connecticut families are getting squeezed and we’re getting punished,” Tong said. “We can’t afford double-digit increases on health insurance.”

RELATED: No, the Inflation Reduction Act doesn’t raise income taxes on the middle class

During Monday’s hearing, representatives from the insurance companies explained their requests and fielded questions from the state insurance department, legislators and officials.

“The audacity of the industry when they’ve had record profits, to ask people to sustain healthcare for their businesses and their families is crazy, to ask them to pay more than a few percentage points higher,” said Ide.

Opponents pointed to record profits for the insurance companies, but insurers say 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,” Karen Moran, president of Connecticare. “We have not requested any more than we absolutely need in order to remain part of the exchange.”

Many at Monday's hearing said insurers should be able to bear rate relief for residents.

While state legislators across the aisle agree these insurance hikes are unaffordable, state Republicans feel Democrats in power haven’t done enough.

“I think Democrats and Republicans all agree that health care insurance costs are unsustainable, on affordable,” Sen. Tony Hwang, (R-District 28) said. The difference in the contrast is how we approach it.”

Both Tong and Hwang asked the insurance department for a special hearing to allow more in-depth questioning and cross-examination of these insurance companies.

Only two of the nine insurers proposing rate increases appeared at Monday’s meeting.

The state insurance department will decide on these requests in September.

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