Hearings on health insurance increase proposals being held Wednesday

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HARTFORD - Connecticut's Department of Insurance held a public hearing on double-digit rate increases requested by the state's health insurers.

Indianapolis-based Anthem asked for an average 26.8 percent rate increase for individual plans offered on and off the state's health insurance exchange, Access Health CT. Anthem's plans cover 56,700 residents.

The first of three hearings was held on Wednesday.

Two additional hearings are scheduled Thursday for rate increases requested by ConnectiCare Inc. and Aetna, both based in Connecticut.

ConnectiCare has asked for an average 24.3 percent increase for individual plans offered off the exchange, which cover 37,142 people. Aetna has asked for a 27.9 percent increase for off-exchange plans covering 6,346 people.

"You all are telling us that we're going to have rate increases that seem unprecedentedly high, and it just does not seem fair," said Newtown resident Stephanie Schaefer. "They're outlandishly high and they're unreasonable," said Schaefer. "So I really oppose any increase at all."

"We have to have coverage, but that will mean that our money will run out quicker, so it's not an option," said Newtown resident Kenneth Schaefer.

"Given the increase in copays, the increase in deductibles, and given the profitability...we really are not clear why they need this increase," said Ann Pratt of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group.

"It's not just about raising a dollar amount," said Mary Levine, who opposes the hike. "It's about real people. It's about their lives."

Here is a statement from Anthem:

During this time of unprecedented change in health care, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Connecticut remains a leader in helping individuals gain access to high quality, affordable healthcare through a variety of plans designed to meet consumers’ needs. Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Anthem has maintained our commitment to the public exchange market, and we recognize the vital role it plays in providing individuals with access to care.

Anthem, like all health carriers, is required to have rates that are adequate and not excessive or unfairly discriminatory and we take that obligation very seriously.  Anthem’s proposed 2017 rates for our individual products on and off the exchange reflect, on average, a 26.8% increase over our 2016 rates.

As the healthcare market continues to evolve, the changes in our 2017 individual rate filings reflect a deeper understanding of our market, in the post-ACA environment.  Factors such as increased use of medical services and added costs of drugs and medical therapies put upward pressure on rates and underscore the work that needs to be done to continue to stabilize the exchanges.  We remain steadfast in our efforts to work with all stakeholders to help ensure the viability and sustainability of the public exchanges.