Conn Dems Offer Health Insurance Changes

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Healthcare Advocate Kevin P. Lembo and legislative leaders today urged sweeping reform of the state approval process for individual health insurance policy rates. (press release)

Blumenthal and Lembo were joined today by legislative leaders, including House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan (D-Meriden) and Insurance and Real Estate Committee Co-chairmen state Sen. Joe Crisco, D-Woodbridge, and state Rep. Steve Fontana, D-North Haven.

These health insurance reforms seek to stem recent individual health insurance rate increases that have been crippling small business owners and consumers — including a 13 to 20 percent increase for Anthem individual policyholders approved by the insurance commissioner last year over Blumenthal’s and Lembo’s strong objections.

Today’s proposal would:

• Require public hearings for all insurer-proposed rate increase requests;

• Compel insurers to notify all policyholders of rate hike applications and dates of public hearings;

• Require the Insurance Department to approve, deny or modify every application. Under current law, rate increases may go into effect without department action;

• Mandate rates be “reasonable.” Current law only says they may not be “excessive”;

• Presume all information submitted at a rate proceeding is public with the burden of proof on the insurer to show why it should not be disclosed.

• Empower the Attorney General’s Office and the Healthcare Advocate to intervene as parties in all rate cases.

• Authorize the Attorney General’s Office, the Healthcare Advocate and consumers to appeal rate decisions to Superior Court.

Blumenthal said, “Massive health insurance rate hikes should be given strict scrutiny, not secrecy. Stopping rate increases requires reform — giving consumer advocates and the public a strong voice and open view. We propose reforms that tear open secret proceedings — providing small businesses and consumers a voice in rate hike proceedings, and giving scrutiny to crippling health insurance costs. Public, consumer advocates must be given fair standing to fight these hikes.

“Disinfecting sunshine must replace secrecy in our health insurance rate hike proceedings. Chronic colossal rate hikes should not be approved in the dark. Our state must assess consumer ability to pay, hold open hearings and provide appeal rights. Consumers must be empowered to stop massive rate hikes. This reform holds regulators accountable, and enables public advocates as well as small businesses and consumers to monitor, speak out and fight for fairness in these proceedings.”

Lembo said, “The Anthem situation is symptomatic of the need for an overhaul in the rate review process. Why is it that people, individuals and business, have accepted increases in their insurance premiums? It’s because they’ve had no power to change the outcome, no voice in the process. That all changes today.”

Donovan said, “It’s time to give individual health care consumers a voice in the cost of their health care. No longer should insurance companies have the power to impose exorbitant rate increases on individuals without public input and proper review. Connecticut can be a leader in the fight against the anti-consumer and anti-small business tactics of the insurance companies.”

Crisco said, “I’m concerned that the industry has enjoyed considerable income over the past decade. We should put into law requirements to give the consumer more equitable consideration. I commend the attorney general and the healthcare advocate for their leadership on this.”

Fontana said, “People who rely on individual health insurance policies can’t continue to afford skyrocketing rate increases. Giving them the ability to participate in rate hearings, and the ability to scrutinize rate increase requests, will help to hold insurance companies accountable.”

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