After reviewing requests by Connecticut insurers to increase health insurance premiums, and considering public testimony, the state Insurance Department has approved next year’s rates at significantly lower levels than requested.
Residents with individual plans will see an average increase of 0.01% in their premium costs, and those with small group plans will see an average increase of 4.1%. Actual premium prices will differ for each specific plan and insurance carrier.
“The Department was able to reduce the health insurance rate increase requests thanks to the hard work of our actuaries and professional staff,” Commissioner Andrew Mais said in a statement.
These rate changes will apply to state-regulated 2021 plans on and off Access Health CT, the state’s Affordable Care Act exchange.
They are offered by Aetna, Anthem Health, ConnectiCare, Harvard Pilgrim, and Oxford Health/UnitedHealthcare and currently cover about 214,600 Connecticut consumers.
The premium rate decisions will not apply to plans offered by large employers or businesses with more than 50 workers.
Insurers had requested average increases between 6.29% and 11.28% for their individual and small group plans, citing reasons like rising health care costs, potential future impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, new taxes and fees, and trends in population health.
Ted Doolittle, the state’s health care advocate, said the lower premium prices for next year are justified.
“It’s good to have the train slow down to not increasing so much every year,” he said. “We as a nation have to turn this around and try to get the prices going in even the other direction, into decreases.”
Some premiums will drop in price for coverage next year. But some plans will still contain significant prices hikes of more than 10%.
“While overall the news is good and the [Connecticut Insurance Department] did a good job in scrubbing these carefully with a fine-toothed comb like Commissioner Mais said he would,” Doolittle said, “there are some pockets of people that are going to be experiencing pain.”
Lynne Ide, director of program and policy for the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, said the final rate changes are a relief. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it especially hard for people to afford any additional health care costs, she said.
“Since COVID-19, it has laid bare even more the struggles that people have every day with the cost of health care,” Ide said. “We do know that many families in Connecticut lost income because of COVID or lost their jobs altogether and are now facing the prospect of being uninsured with no coverage at all.”
While she considers the minimal rate changes a positive thing, Ide said it doesn’t address the larger problem of health care pricing in the United States.
“It still doesn’t take away the issue that a lot of families struggle with,” she said, “which is the total out-of-pocket costs that they need to pay in addition to premiums, copays, deductibles and other forms of cost sharing.”
Open enrollment in Connecticut for 2021 health care coverage begins Nov. 1.