CT attorney general seeks halt to hearings on higher health insurance rates. Here’s why. – Hartford Courant

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong on Tuesday urged the state Insurance Department to halt a planned Aug. 15 public hearing reviewing insurance rate increase requests as Congress considers extending a tax credit he said could reduce the need for higher prices.

In a letter to Insurance Commissioner Andrew Mais, Tong said the US Senate is expected to debate and vote this week to extend tax credits that Anthem Health Plans and ConnectiCare Benefits Inc. assumed would expire Jan. 1.

That assumption was identified by the two insurers and the state Insurance Department as a “significant driver” behind the double-digit rate increase requests, he said.

In an emailed statement, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Connecticut said its rates will reflect its experience and ability to “deliver on behalf of consumers in this market.”

“This premise will guide our next steps as we learn more and we will continue to work with the state as the regulatory process continues,” he said.

A representative of ConnectiCare did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment and the Insurance Department did not immediately respond to Tong’s call for a delayed hearing.

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Referring to possible Senate action as a “significant development,” Tong asked the Insurance Department to halt all consideration and planning for the scheduled Aug. 15 public hearing.

“The tax credit extension would be a game changer and may significantly reduce the need for an increase,” the attorney general said. “It would be a dereliction of our duty to consumers to proceed with a hearing on rates built on what now appears to be a bad guess.”

If Congress extends the Federal Advance Premium Tax Credits, rate increase requests must be revised and would reflect substantial savings to consumers, Tong said.

The tax credit is available in advance to reduce consumers’ monthly health insurance premiums.

Insurance companies that sell policies on and off Connecticut’s Affordable Care Act exchange submitted proposals in July seeking an average increase of 20.4% on individual health plans next year. On small group plans, the carriers are asking for an average increase of 14.8%.

Tong and other elected officials criticized the rate proposals last month, urging a formal hearing to question insurance executives and present an independent analysis. Critics have said steep health insurance cost increases are not sustainable as consumers already struggle with the highest rate of inflation in 40 years.

Stephen Singer can be reached at [email protected]

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