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October 18, 2010

Federal official says CT should reconsider health insurance rate increases

A federal official is raising new concerns about recent, steep rate increases by health insurance companies in Connecticut, NBC Connecticut reports.

The Director of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, Jay Angoff, sent a letter to the state's insurance commisioner Monday, urging him to reconsider the decision to approve the massive rate increases.

The Connecticut Insurance Department recently allowed Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield to raise premium rates as much at 47 percent for some customers.

"The consumers of Connecticut expect and deserve transparency and a fact-based rationale as to why their rates are increasing," Angoff said in the letter. "The Affordable Care Act cannot be used to justify this huge rate hike and, in fact, includes provisions to empower States to shed light on and guard against this type of excessive insurer behavior."

Angoff cited a $1 million grant HHS made in August to the Connecticut Insurance Department (CID) through the Affordable Care Act. The money, Angoff said, was meant to enable the Insurance Department to improve its oversight of insurance company rates and determine if those rates were excessive.

"HHS therefore asks that the CID hold a hearing on the increase it has approved, test and validate the assumptions underlying that increase, and make all data filed by Anthem and all analyses of the filing by the CID and correspondence between CID and Anthem public," Angoff said

Insurance Commissioner Thomas Sullivan has been taking criticism for allowing insurance companies to raise rates by double digits. Sullivan has previously defended the rate increases saying they are largely a result of the newly enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

"The rates that were filed and approved reflect the current cost to deliver care and the impact of more comprehensive benefit designs required under the federal healthcare reform law," Sullivan said.


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