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Connecticut health exchange plans to rise by 9.4%

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(The Center Square) — The cost of health insurance plans offered through Connecticut’s Affordable Care Act Exchange will increase next year by nearly double digits, state insurance regulators said.

The Connecticut Insurance Department has approved a 9.4% proposed rate increase for health insurers for plans available on and off Access Health CT, the state’s health insurance exchange.

The rates are still lower than the 12.4% increases proposed by health insurers for individual health plans in 2024, state regulators say.

Regulators also set a 7.4% average increase in the small group market, reducing insurers’ requested rates by 50% from a requested average of 14.8%, they said.

Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais said medical costs have surged by 7-9%, while prescription drug costs have risen by about 11-19%. The increases are primarily driven by higher healthcare utilization and greater disease severity, which lead to advanced-stage treatments and an overall increase in healthcare spending, he said.

Mais said regulators “appropriately reduced the requested health insurance rates increases” and said the new rates, while higher than the previous year, “demonstrate the safety net in place to protect against unsupported increases.”

“Our goal is crystal clear: access by Connecticut consumers to a robust and competitive health insurance market while effectively managing insurance costs,” he said in a statement. “We remain committed to ensuring that health insurance is priced appropriately and accessible for consumers in Connecticut.”

Last year, state regulators approved rate changes ranging from a decrease of 6% on certain policies to increases of 20% and 25% on others.

The state’s health care and consumer advocates had urged state insurance officials to reject the proposed rate hikes, citing the impact on low-income patients.

Attorney General William Tong praised state regulators for cutting the “bloated rates” sought by insurers, saying they were “based on vague, unsupported assumptions contradicting nationally-supported data.”

“However, these rate hikes remain far too high and deeply unaffordable. Insurers right now have little to no incentive to hold down healthcare costs or premiums, and Connecticut families and small businesses are getting crushed,” the Democrat said in a statement. “We need to change this.”

Tong said Connecticut’s health care rate review process is “far too condensed, and far too opaque to produce any kind of meaningful challenge to the insurance industry’s unjustified and unsupported assumptions.”

“It is going to take legislative reform to force insurers to use their negotiating leverage to drive down these ballooning healthcare costs,” he said. And we need a robust, transparent review process that allows us to challenge and scrutinize these applications and actuarial assumptions.”

Connecticut’s health care expenses increased by 6% to $34 billion in 2021, exceeding a goal set by Gov. Ned Lamont to limit the state’s cost growth.

In June, Lamont signed legislation to reduce Connecticut’s rising health care costs through stronger regulation of hospitals and drug prices.

The new regulations ban the use of anti-competitive health care contracting practices, improving transparency in pricing for medical treatments, limits on hospital “facility fees” and multi-state bulk purchasing programs to lower prescription drug costs, among other changes.

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