‘These are people’s lives.’ Health insurance rate hikes get angry reception at hearing

Four insurance carriers are asking state regulators for double-digit rate increases. But at an emotional hearing on Monday, they got a frosty reception – from customers and state leaders.
“These are people's lives,” said Isabelle Barbour, of New London. “These are people's children; these are people's families.”
The average requested increases range from 10.9% for Aetna all the way up to 23% for ConnectiCare, depending on the type of plan and whether it’s on the state’s insurance exchange or not.
Carriers blame the rising cost of drugs, plus hospitals that keep getting bigger – and keep raising prices.
“Some health systems in our state have requested that we increase their contract reimbursement by three times the state's cost growth benchmark,” said ConnectiCare President Mark Meador.
“Connecticut hospitals work every day to deliver exceptional, accessible quality care for everyone who walks through their doors, regardless of ability to pay, despite the pressures of dramatically rising inflation-driven costs, workforce shortages, government underpaying caregivers for services provided to patients on Medicare and Medicaid and treating sicker patients than before the pandemic. While we face these headwinds, we will continue to work to develop a more sustainable healthcare delivery system in our state.”
The Connecticut Hospital Association said it is also facing rising costs.
“Connecticut hospitals work every day to deliver exceptional, accessible quality care for everyone who walks through their doors, regardless of ability to pay, despite the pressures of dramatically rising inflation-driven costs, workforce shortages, government underpaying caregivers for services provided to patients on Medicare and Medicaid, and treating sicker patients than before the pandemic,” CHA said in a statement. “While we face these headwinds, we will continue to work to develop a more sustainable healthcare delivery system in our state.”
But state leaders said, neither industry gets to cry poverty when some are making billions in profits.
“The Cigna CEO earned compensation last year of more than $20 million,” said Connecticut Attorney General William Tong.
Lawmakers from both parties urged the Connecticut Insurance Department to dramatically lower the requested increases.
“When you start looking at some of the astronomical profits that these companies are making … it's like working on Rubik's Cube to try and come up with the answer,” said state Rep. Tom Delnicki (R-South Windsor)
Meantime, patients are struggling. Connecticut’s median income is up just 1.9%, but health care costs jumped almost 19%, according to the Office of Healthcare Strategy.
Vorcelia Oliphant, of Wallingford, told regulators that she’s already paying $4,000 per year to insure her mother.
“A rate increase will probably be another thousand dollars a year,” she said.
CID plans to make a decision next month. The department usually approves much smaller increases than insurance carriers ask for.