After vowing to leave Connecticut's health insurance exchange, ConnectiCare said Tuesday it will offer plans in the market in 2017 despite losing out on its proposed rate hike. The about-face comes the same week that President Barack Obama met with insurers remaining in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces.
ConnectiCare said Tuesday that it discussed its planned departure with state regulators and its beneficiaries and ultimately decided to stay in the ACA market, a dramatic switch after it said Sept. 9 it would leave the market for 2017 in the wake of a state court's rejection of the insurer's attempt to force through its proposed 27% average premium increase for the plans.
"We look forward to continuing to partner with the (Insurance) Department and the exchange to continue to meet this promise and to address the broader policy issues ... that affect the sustainability of the health insurance market place,'' ConnectiCare CEO Michael Wise said in a statement Tuesday afternoon, according to the Hartford Courant.
The insurer will raise rates approximately 17.4% with approval from the state's insurance department. The approved increase matches ConnectiCare's initial proposal from August. ConnectiCare later amended that request to boost its premiums, noting that patients were using more medical services and prescription drugs than expected.
Approximately half of Connecticut's 100,000 ACA exchange customers have health insurance policies with ConnectiCare. Anthem, the other insurer on the exchange, has a slightly larger share and will increase its premiums by 22.4% on average, less than the 26.8% average it requested.
"ConnectiCare is an important member of Connecticut's insurance industry and the community at large,” said Katharine Wade, Connecticut's Insurance Department commissioner, in a statement. “The company's willingness to participate in the ACA exchange from the start has provided thousands of Connecticut consumers with access to health insurance choices, which is essential for a robust market."
Connecticut's ACA insurance market has been hit hard, as its co-op program HealthyCT shut its doors in July after receiving a hefty risk-adjustment liability. UnitedHealthcare announced in April it would leave the exchange in 2017. In August, ConnectiCare noted that it too received a higher-than-expected risk adjustment charge. Still, the insurer said it would work hard to maintain its level of service and stay financially stable.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and other state officials praised ConnectiCare's decision Tuesday, maintaining that despite the fiscal challenges, its ACA exchange has helped lower the uninsured rate throughout the state.
“Our administration will continue working to ensure that Connecticut remains a leader in implementing an exchange that provides quality, secure and affordable healthcare to all of our state's families,” Malloy said.
ConnectiCare is a subsidiary of EmblemHealth, the large New York City-based insurer that is led by Karen Ignagni, former top lobbyist at America's Health Insurance Plans.
On Monday, Obama spoke with officials from Humana, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and Highmark Health, among others. Several insurers have mulled leaving the program for 2017 amid concerns over the sicker, more expensive patient population in the exchanges. Congress is also studying the exchanges' issues with several hearings this week.