Conn. health plans propose varied rates for 2015

Two insurers selling products on Connecticut's exchange want to raise premiums by double digits for 2015. But a third competitor is planning to reduce premiums by nearly 10%.

In addition, UnitedHealth Group, the largest health insurance company in the country, plans to sell individual products through Access Health CT for the first time, meaning there will be more competition for customers in 2015.

“We're very enthused about that new entrant,” said Kevin Counihan, Access Health CT's CEO. “We believe in competition. We believe in the market. Our view is the more the merrier.”

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is proposing to increase premiums for individual plans sold on and off the state exchange an average of 12.5% in 2015. The proposed rate hikes range from 4.4% to 17.4% depending on the product.

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That's being driven by an anticipated 8.4% increase in medical care costs, according to filings with the Connecticut Insurance Department. “The company anticipates a 'pent-up' demand for health services in 2015, the second full year of the Affordable Care Act, and higher morbidity—the influx of previously uninsured into insured risk pools,” Anthem explained.

Similarly, ConnectiCare Benefits is asking state regulators to approve an average 11.8% increase in premiums. The company attributed the increase to a 10.7% spike in medical costs and $14.68 per member a month in fees associated with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

By contrast, HealthyCT, a not-for-profit insurer seeded with federal loans, wants to decrease premiums by an average of 8.9% in 2015 for individual plans sold on and off the exchange. The co-op insurer attributed the reduction in premiums in part to lower-than-anticipated medical costs in 2014.

Counihan said it also reflects less robust enrollment than anticipated in 2014 for the start-up insurer. “They're looking to make themselves more competitive and be more aggressive in the market, which is just what we want them to do,” Counihan said.

UnitedHealth Group will sell individual plans through the exchange for the first time. United has indicated it expects to compete more aggressively in the exchanges. The company is also offering products through Washington state's exchange for the first time in 2015.

Counihan points out that the only major insurer doing business in Connecticut that's not represented on the exchange in 2015 is Aetna.

The proposed rates are subject to review by the Connecticut Insurance Department. The filings are only for individual products. Small group plan rates are not yet available.

Follow Paul Demko on Twitter: @MHpdemko



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