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Health insurers in Connecticut submit lower premium rate increases than last year

Rising medical costs continue to be the key driver of health insurance premium increases, insurance commissioner says.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

Connecticut State House. Credit: Google Street ViewConnecticut State House. Credit: Google Street View

Health insurers in the individual and small group markets in Connecticut have submitted premium increases that are lower than last year, a move that appears to go against the expected trend for even higher rates due to destabilizing pressures on the Affordable Care Act.

The average individual rate increase request is 12.3 percent, with proposals ranging from 10.9 to 31 percent. This compares to the average increase request of 25.51 percent last year, according to the  Connecticut Insurance Department.

Ten health insurers submitted 14 rate filings for the 2019 individual and small group markets in plans both on and off the state- sponsored ACA exchange, Access Health CT.  These plans currently cover about 293,000 people.

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Two carriers – Anthem and ConnectiCare Benefits Inc. – have filed rates for both individual and small group plans that will be marketed through Access Health CT.

ConnectiCare requested a 13 percent rate increase for individuals buying coverage on the exchange.

Anthem has requested 9.1 and 9.9 percent rate hikes respectively, for individual and small group plans on and off the exchange.

The proposed average small group rate increase request is 10.22 percent and ranges from -5.0 to 21.1 percent. This compares to the average increase request of 18.06 percent from last year.

While the proposed increases are lower than last year, rising medical costs continue to be the key drivers of health insurance premium rate increase requests, Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade said by statement.

"Of concern, however, is the ongoing uncertainty in Washington that threatens to destabilize the health insurance markets, particularly for individuals," Wade said. "The department is pressing for clarity and guidance from the federal government so that we can finalize the rates for 2019."

In their rate filings, the carriers attributed the increases to several factors, including the trend for rising healthcare costs, prescription drugs and the increased demand for medical services.

They also cited uncertainty in Washington and the removal of the penalty in the individual mandate requiring coverage, which is expected to result in younger, healthier individuals declining to buy insurance. A lack of participation shrinks the risk pool and increases the cost of insurance to the remaining members.

Another factor is the Trump Administration's allowance of short-duration and Association Health Plans that bypass ACA coverage mandates. Connecticut and other state insurance regulators are awaiting clarification from the federal government on new federal regulations allowing association health plans, which could further shrink the ACA risk pool.

The Connecticut Insurance Department expects to make final rulings on the proposals in September. Open enrollment for the 2019 coverage year begins November 1.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com